Drivers 16-19 years old have the highest accident rate led by the 16-17 year group. Thirty percent of these accidents are alcohol related. So much for our restrictive laws! The misuse of speed is often involved. The Center for Disease Control reports  “young males are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors such as speeding…males are more likely to report driving and drinking…and are less likely to wear a seatbelt.” According to Allstate Insurance, motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of teen deaths in America & take nearly 6,000 lives every year with about another 300,000 injuries. 20 to 30% of fatal teenage car crashes are due to distractions. What are distractions? Some are worse than others—all are bad. Using a cell phone, sending/reading text messages, eating, grooming, blasting loud music, changing stations or DVDs & carrying on conversations with others in the car, can seriously affect driver competence. You may not hear emergency or police vehicles with loud music reverberating within the confined interior space of an automobile or truck. Having 2 teen passengers increases the accident rate by 300%. 30% of teen crashes happen at night but the most dangerous time for teens to drive is 3-5 pm on weekdays. About 53% of teen fatalities occur Friday thru Sunday. The Toyota Teen Driver program provided the last three pieces of information.

 With all the current programs, how come the accident and death rates are so high? There are many reasons, some obvious, some not so obvious. Teens may believe because they are licensed, they know how to drive safely.  Teen seat belt use needs improvement. Teen attitudes are perhaps attributable to a lack of maturity and often succumbing to peer pressures. Some experts believe teens clearly understand the risks involved but are willing to take them.  Another factor not frequently mentioned is vehicle quality and reliability. Teens often inherit the oldest & perhaps a poorly maintained vehicle from a parent. Or, they buy something they can afford without many concerns for safety. Many states do not have vehicle inspection laws. This allows teens (and others) to drive cars with questionable tires, brakes, suspensions, lights, etc. Many states refuse to enact inspection laws under the excuse that such laws are costly and would deprive the poor job transportation. I guess it’s okay for them to kill or be killed on our roads—economics trumps safety.

Some parents recognize that their teen drivers are in harm’s way and attempt to provide their progeny with the largest, heaviest old clunker they can find. They have read the reports showing less injury to occupants of larger vehicles—to hell with fuel economy–and good luck to those driving smaller, lighter vehicles. Ever notice how many teens drive jeeps or SUV’s?  Although four-wheel drive vehicles may start you going during inclement weather, they do not stop any better than front or rear wheel drive vehicles. How about this parental urge to provide cars to kids ASAP. They are long- tired of ferrying their offspring to soccer, hockey, dance, school events & whatever, & want to divest this responsibility. “John is a good new driver,” my neighbor said. I asked how much time she had spent driving with him. “About 2 hours” was the reply. Parental abdication is a major factor in the equation. AutoWeek reported that “one in four crash fatalities in the US involves 16-to-24 year-olds, & in the 16-20 age group, the crash fatality rate in 2004…was nearly twice as high as for other age groups. On a miles-driven basis, the fatality rate for drivers age 16 to 19 years is four times that of drivers ages 25 to 69.”

CNN.com reported on a government- funded study conducted by the University of Michigan, found that a high number of teens are taking over-the-counter cold medicine to get high. The study also found a slowing use of illegal drugs by teens. However, the use of illegal drugs, over-the-counter agents, and alcohol remain major contributors to accident & mortality rates. 30% of 12th graders said they had been drunk at least once over the past 30 days. 9.7% of 12th graders use the painkiller, Vicodin; 7% report using DXM (cough & cold medicine). Abuse of DXM is widespread. 48% of 12th graders acknowledged that they had at some point tried at least one illicit drug. This scientific survey of 50,000 students in 400 schools has been conducted for 32 consecutive years. Teens are raiding home medicine and alcohol cabinets as well as the cold beer bin. Where are the parents?

More info & resources available-“Distracted Driving Epidemic“…(Amazon.com 2016).

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