The Centers For Disease Control has released a new study confirming that car wrecks are the leading cause of death among US teens. Every year in the United States, over 16,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 19 die. Nearly 50 percent die in accidents, with car wrecks accounting for nearly one-third of the deaths. In addition to the deaths, the CDC estimates that about 350,000 teens are treated in emergency rooms each year for injuries sustained in auto accidents.
Why are teens at such risk? Also from the CDC:
Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations. Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). The presence of male teenage passengers increases the likelihood of this risky driving behavior. Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2005, 37% were speeding at the time of the crash and 26% had been drinking. Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2005, 10% of high school students reported they rarely or never wear seat belts when riding with someone else. Male high school students (12.5%) were more likely than female students (7.8%) to rarely or never wear seat belts. African-American students (12%) and Hispanic students (13%) were more likely than white students (10.1%) to rarely or never wear seat belts. At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash is greater for teens than for older drivers. In 2008, 25% of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of 0.08 g/dl or higher. In a national survey conducted in 2007, nearly three out of ten teens reported that, within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. One in ten reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period. In 2008, nearly three out of every four teen drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt. In 2008, half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight and 56% occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
Interestingly, the CDC found that the one thing that can make a difference is parents. Surprisingly (for those of us who have kids), when asked about whose opinion they most listen to and respect, most teens responded with their parents. Parents have to properly instruct teen drivers on their boundaries and continuously reinforce the dangers of driving and safe driving habits.
If you have a teen, make sure you’re doing what you can to protect his or her life.
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