Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens

A researcher from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) wants Americans to know that traffic crashes are the single most common cause of death among teens in the United States. That's shocking, but it's not inevitable. There are concrete steps that we can take to reduce teen crash rates. Those steps include education, engineering and enforcement.

"Teen drivers, particularly novice ones, are overrepresented in U.S. fatality and injury crash statistics. The extraordinarily high teen crash rates are unacceptable and it is our core mission to save lives," said the expert, who leads VTTI's Teen Risk and Injury Prevention Group.

Researchers from the group identified several areas where teen drivers -- especially novice drivers -- run into trouble. Those included:

  • Distracted driving
  • Hard braking and cornering
  • Speeding
  • Driving at night

Speeding, hard cornering, hard braking and night driving are difficult for novice drivers, largely because less-experienced drivers don't have the skill to regain control when something goes wrong.

It's crucial to reduce these risks for all teen drivers, but the least experienced drivers can find these particularly challenging. A naturalistic driving study at VTTI found that drivers in their first 18 months of licensure were involved in four times as many collisions and near-collisions. This was the first study to look into whether teens faced more risk in the first few months of driving alone.

"One out of every five young drivers in the United States is involved in a collision within the first six months of driving, often because they are distracted," said the expert.

Distracted driving is of particular concern, considering the increasing number and complexity of devices young adults use. The potential to distract from driving is often overlooked when teens choose to use their devices.

Beyond devices, driving with other teens in the car is a well-known distraction risk. One study found that teens who drive with other teens in the car are often "thrill seekers" who don't accurately predict the risk of distraction -- and who don't think their parents are monitoring them.

Another study found that teens are more likely to engage in thrill-seeking behaviors when they had friends in the car. Males, especially, were found to be more likely to drive aggressively or perform an illegal maneuver with peers in the vehicle.

Teens are four times as likely to be involved in fatal traffic crashes as adult drivers. Parents need to stay involved in monitoring teens' driving activities after the permit phase.

"We cannot stress enough the importance of educating teen drivers, parents, and the public at large about potential risks and the best methods to alleviate them," said the VTTI expert.

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Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne is an accomplished lawyer who practices in state and federal courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. He brings more than 30 years of experience and a long record of success to each case. His law practice is distinguished by careful preparation and thorough analysis of each case...

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