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Teen Driving Risk Factors

 

While inexperience is a disadvantage that impacts most teenagers, the following distractions and factors increase the safety risk for teen drivers.

Cell Phones and Texting 

When a teen is behind the wheel, texting, talking on a cell phone, and surfing the Web on a mobile device are distractions that increase the likelihood of a car accident.  An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that cell phone users were four times more likely to get into car crashes serious enough to injure themselves.1  

Research regarding the impact of texting when driving is still in development, but the Insurance Institute noted that driving simulations using young drivers, who typically have a higher propensity to text, found that driving behaviors like lane-keeping ability and reaction time were adversely affected.2 

Even though some states have banned cell phone use while driving, this ban is often ignored.3  While it is always best to avoid the distractions of mobile devices while driving, you can find out more about cell phone usage laws in your state by clicking here.

A “No-Cell-Phone-While-Driving” contract between parents and teen drivers is a good way to develop and maintain safe-driving practices.  If a teen driver talks or texts on a cell phone while driving, car privileges can be restricted.

Speeding

Speeding increases the risk of an accident – and lack of driving experience and reduced reaction time can be an especially deadly combination when a teen drives over the posted speed limit.

Teenage attitudes regarding what actually constitutes “speeding” help reveal why this population of drivers is so at risk: One group of surveyed teenagers considered driving around 90 mph to be “speeding.”  Sixty-two percent of teenagers surveyed also admitted to having been in a car where street racing, reckless driving, drunk driving, or other unsafe activity occurred.4

Teen drivers need to know that speeding means much more than possible fines, increased insurance premiums, and suspension or loss of their driver’s license – it can result in serious or even fatal accidents.

Weather

Wet roads, limited visibility, black ice and high winds are only a few weather-related factors that increase the risk of accidents.  Teens can be especially susceptible to these conditions because of their lack of driving experience.  While it’s best to avoid driving in bad weather, it’s critical that teen drivers receive instruction in the proper techniques for driving in inclement weather. 

Time of Day

In 2005, half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight, and 54% occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.5  Limiting teens to safer driving times until they gain experience is a common-sense way of safeguarding new drivers against undue risk.

Peer Pressure

Unsupervised teen drivers are more likely to have accidents when teen passengers are along for the ride.  In fact, statistics show that as the number of teen passengers increases, so does the likelihood of an accident.6  It is wise to limit the number of passengers allowed in the car when a teen first takes to the road.

Alcohol

In 2007, more than one in four 15- to 20-year-olds killed in automobile crashes were alcohol-impaired (had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher).7 The Insurance Information Institute, The Centers for Disease Control, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) all offer a comprehensive selection of resources related to drunk driving and its prevention.

Failure to Use Seat Belts7

Seatbelts are critical to avoiding injury in auto accidents, yet teens are less likely to wear them.  According to a 2008 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, 55 percent of 16- to 20-year-old vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not buckled up.  The NHTSA has also found that teen seatbelt usage rates are especially low at night.

A 2002 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey found that teenagers are less likely to wear safety belts even when their parents wear them.  The survey also found overall passenger seatbelt use was much lower for teens than adults.  Only 50 percent of males and 56 percent of females riding with adult drivers were buckled up in the morning going to school. 

In addition, the study revealed that when a teenager was driving, seatbelt use among teen passengers fell to 42 percent among males and 52 percent among females.  To increase seatbelt use among teens, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has suggested adding a seatbelt use provision to graduated licensing systems.


References:

1 McEvoy, S.P.; Stevenson, M.R.; McCartt, A.T.; Woodward, M.; Haworth, C.; Palamara, P.; and Cercarelli, R. 2005. Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study. British Medical Journal 331(7514): 428: http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/cellphones.aspx

2 Insurance Information Institute: http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/cellphones.aspx

3 Foss, R.D.; Goodwin, A.H.; McCartt, A.T.; and Hellinga, L.A. 2008. Short-term effects of a teenager driver cell phone restriction. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/cellphones.aspx

4 Insurance Information Institute: http://www.iii.org/media/hottopics/insurance/teendrivers/#

5 5Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2005: http://www.iihs.org/research/fatality_facts_2005/teenagers.html

6 Chen L, Baker SP, Braver ER, Li G. Carrying passengers as a risk factor for crashes fatal to 16- and 17-year-old drivers. JAMA 2000; 283(12):1578–82.

7 7Insurance Information Institute: http://www.iii.org/media/hottopics/insurance/teendrivers/

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