Teenagers and Reckless Driving
February 15, 2018
Safe Kids Worldwide (SKW), a nonprofit organization consisting of more than 400 coalitions across the country, knows that we all need to do more to keep teenage drivers safe. Every day, at least six teens die after being in automobile accidents. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 years-old. There are many steps that parents and caregivers in particular can take in order to keep teen drivers safer behind the wheel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are almost three times as likely to be in fatal automobile accidents than individuals over 20-years-old. In just one year, 2,333 teenagers died due to the injuries they sustained in automobile crashes. Annually, hundreds of thousands of teenagers are seriously injured and require medical treatment; the CDC counted 221,313 in 2014 who were treated in emergency room departments after being in car crashes.
The CDC also determined certain risk factors that can make teenager drivers even more prone to getting in dangerous car accidents. According to its data, teenage male drivers are two-times as likely to be in an accident than female drivers. Driving with a passenger in the vehicle also increases accident hazards; and the more passengers a teenager driver has in his or her vehicle, the more likely he or she is to be in a crash. One of the last major risk factors observed by the CDC is general driving inexperience. Newly licensed drivers – especially those who are in their first month of legally being behind the wheel and who are 16 to 17-years-old – are up to three-times as likely to get into accidents than 18 to 19-year-old drivers.
There are many reasons that teens are more likely to be in a crash than adults. It is much more common for teens to drive recklessly, which includes speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, failing to wear seat belts, and driving late at night with inadequate visibility. Here are a few key statistics on reckless driving from the CDC:
- As many as 50% of teen drivers killed in car crashes are in accidents between 3 p.m. and midnight;
- As many as 39% of high school-aged students report that they fail to wear seat belts when driving or riding as passengers in motor vehicles;
- Individuals between the ages of 16 and 19-years-old are less likely to properly assess risky driving situations than adults are, and are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations and make lethal driving mistakes;
- 20% of teenagers say they’ve been passengers in vehicles with drivers who had been drinking alcohol; 8% polled said they had driven after drinking alcohol within the last 30 days, and;4
- In 2014, a whopping 62% of adolescents in fatal car crashes between 15 and 19-years old weren’t wearing seat belts
This is why SKW urges parents and caregivers to talk to their teenage children about the dangers of driving, how to be responsible behind the wheel and why it is so critical to always buckle up. Laws on how many hours a teenage driver requires behind the wheel before being eligible for licensing vary; in Pennsylvania, they have to log at least 65 hours behind the wheel, 10 of which must be nighttime driving hours and 5 that have to be logged during inclement (rain, snow, etc.) weather. In New Jersey, teens must have at least six months of supervised driving to receive a probationary driver’s license. To find out more about the legal requirements in your state, contact your local DMV.
SKW also recommends that parents and caregivers establish formal agreements with teens on safe driving. These agreements can help ensure that teens wear their seat belts, obey all traffic laws, don’t allow strangers to enter their vehicles, call parents or caregivers if any drugs or alcohol have been consumed and that they will not drive without first receiving permission. To look at the parent-teen driving agreement from the SKW, please visit: https://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/patk_2014_teenparent_agreement_aap-a.pdf.
Some other important tips on how to keep teen drivers safe behind the wheel from both the CDC and SKW include:
- Set a strict number of how many passengers – and in what types of situation they’re allowed – can be in your teen’s vehicle;
- As an adult, set a good example. Always buckle up, obey traffic laws and drive responsibly;
- Remind teenagers that if they tired or upset, they shouldn’t drive. Make sure they know it’s always okay to call a parent or caregiver for help, even if they’ve been drinking, and:
- Distracted driving is a major issue (especially for teen drivers), so make it clear that it’s not okay to use a cell phone, eat or drink while behind the wheel
The truth is, it’s hard to prevent what you can’t tell is happening. That’s why traffic and seat belt enforcement are also essential to help keep teen drivers safe. Many states have made it illegal to ride in motor vehicles without seat belts and often enact financial penalties when drivers or passengers fail to obey. Remind teenagers that seat belts have been proven to decrease the risk of dying in car crashes by as much as 50%.
Accidents may always happen, but ones that are the result of reckless driving behaviors can often be prevented. Establishing good, open communication with teens before they reach driving age can help them become safer and more responsible drivers. If you have any questions about a car accident involving your teenager, please contact our firm.
Allentown Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represents Individuals Injured in Automobile Accidents
If your teenager was injured in a car accident, please contact our Allentown car accident lawyers. Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, and we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.