Study Suggests Strategies for Reducing Teen Fatalities in Car Crashes
- A new national study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide suggests strategies for reducing the number of teen fatalities resulting from car crashes.
- According to NHTSA, more U.S. teens — about 2,500 per year — are killed in car crashes than by any other cause of death.
- In half of the fatal crashes, teens were not wearing seatbelts and 12 percent of the crashes involved distracted driving.
DETROIT — A new national study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide suggests strategies for reducing the number of teen fatalities resulting from car crashes.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, more U.S. teens — about 2,500 per year — are killed in car crashes than by any other cause of death. Drivers account for 56 percent of the fatalities and passengers 44 percent. In half of the fatal crashes, the teens were not wearing seatbelts.
The study, Teens in Cars, was funded by a grant from the General Motors Foundation to learn more about the causes of these crashes and help to develop strategies to reduce their number and severity. The study was released on Tuesday.
Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to reducing injuries to children, surveyed 1,051 U.S. teens between the ages of 13 and 19 and found that 23 percent admitted that they don't buckle up on every ride.
Speaking up to an unsafe teen driver is a challenge for many in the survey, with 40 percent of teens reporting that they ask the driver to stop what they're doing, but another 39 percent admitting that they do nothing.
"It can be uncomfortable for anyone to speak up when they feel unsafe riding in a vehicle, and perhaps even more so for teens riding with their peers," said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs, in a statement. "The results of this research further underscore the importance of reaching teens with the life-saving messages to buckle up during every ride and to speak up when they don't feel secure."
Not surprisingly, the topic of cell-phone use also featured prominently in the survey.
According to the report, 39 percent of respondents say they have ridden with a teen driver who was texting, and fully 95 percent believe other teen drivers have done so. Another 43 percent of those surveyed reported riding as a passenger with a teen driver who was talking on the phone.
According to NHTSA, 12 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, during the most recent full year for which statistics are available, were distracted by phone use or other diversions at the time of the incident. A total of 270 people died in these crashes.
NHTSA also reports that 71 percent of teens admit that they composed and sent a text message while driving, and 78 percent say they've read a text behind the wheel.
To reduce the number of teen fatalities in car crashes, Safe Kids Worldwide advocates stricter enforcement of seatbelt laws; limiting the number of teen passengers in a vehicle driven by a teenager; stronger bans on distracted driving; zero tolerance of alcohol abuse; restrictions on teens driving at night (the most dangerous time of day, according to statistics); and more comprehensive driver training and licensing regulations.
With 60 percent of teens surveyed reporting that they've ridden with a parent who was talking on the phone and 28 percent saying they've been in a car while a parent was texting, Safe Kids Worldwide also has a number of recommendations for parents.
These include making seatbelt use a habit, starting when children are very young; being a safety role model by observing speed limits and following other rules of the road; putting away cell phones while driving; and encouraging teens to speak up when they're riding with a driver of any age who isn't operating the vehicle safely.
Edmunds says: This survey has resulted in a number of practical suggestions for families that could help reduce the number of teen fatalities on the road.