No. 1 Rule: Lay Off the Gas Pedal
The CDC says that car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.
In 2015, to take just one year, more than 2,300 teens ages 16-19 lost their lives in crashes. Hundreds of thousands more were injured.
"[P]er mile driven," the CDC states on its website, "teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash."
Groups at Significant Risk
The CDC cites (1) males; (2) teen drivers with teen passengers in the vehicle; and (3) teens who just got their driver's licenses, as significant risk groups - though we note, based on CDC data, that all teen drivers, not just those in these particular risk groups, are generally at higher risk than others.
Common Risk Factors
The CDC cites alcohol impairment as a major risk factor: "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," citing 2007 data published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
In addition to alcohol impairment, the following factors play a role in the number of teens who die or are injured in motor vehicle accidents:
- Lack of seatbelt use
Yet another common factor is poor judgment and/or decision-making in critical, hazardous situations (especially problematic in the first months after the teen driver's licensure).
Rise in L.A. Traffic Deaths
This past April, the Los Angeles Times reported that pedestrian, bicyclist, and driver deaths in Los Angeles "rose sharply" last year. The paper attributed the climb to more distractions, more people walking or riding bikes in L.A., and fewer speeding tickets issued by police.
The Times quoted Seleta Reynolds, GM of the L.A. Transportation Department: "The best tool to reduce the severity of those crashes is for everybody to slow down."
The message is clear. If you have a teen driver in your household - especially a newly licensed one - issue a firm parental order: Instruct your teen not to follow too closely, to wear a seatbelt, and lay off the gas pedal.
View the CDC's factsheet on teen driving.