Safety Spotlight: Teen Car Crashes
Are you aware that motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of teenage deaths in the United States? What about the fact that teen drivers (ages 16-19) are involved in fatal car accidents at four times the rate of adults? These alarming statistics reflect the need for better driver safety training and awareness amongst our nation’s teenage drivers. As part of National Teen Driver Safety Awareness Week, which kicks off October 16th-October 22nd, TrueCar is sharing some important statistics and facts about teen driver safety.
Driving a car requires skill, focus, and patience, and as with most skills, it is improved vastly with practice and experience, which is why new drivers are more susceptible to making driving errors. According to a study released in April by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Companies that analyzed 800 crashes involving teen drivers, 75% of the crashes were attributed to teen driver error. Close to half of the serious crashes were attributed to the following three errors:
• Lack of Scanning – Scanning is the act of observing the surrounding area for hazards, not just what’s right in front of the vehicle, but far ahead of the vehicle and to either side of the vehicle as well. The study attributed 21% of the accidents to lack of scanning needed to detect and respond to hazards.
• Driving too Fast – 21% of accidents were a result of teen drivers driving too fast for the road conditions, which prevented them from having enough time to respond to other drivers or obstacles.
• Driver Distractions – Any activity that diverts the driver’s focus and attention from the road should be avoided, especially for less-experienced teen drivers. These include talking on the phone, texting, changing the music and programming the GPS. In fact, 20% of accidents occurred because drivers were distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle. Teendriversource.org warns that having two or more friends in the car while a teen is driving more than triples the risk of a fatal crash. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), talking on the phone while driving increases the risk of a crash by four times, and notes that an estimated 389,579 crashes this year involved drivers who were talking or texting on their cell phones. Find out more about the dangers of distracted driving here.
The study found the three above safe driving skills were the primary culprits in teen accidents, but the below factors should not be ignored:
• Driving in Poor Weather – Drivers should be extra alert and drive slower than usual in poor weather conditions when visibility may be low and when road conditions are dangerous.
• Vehicle Malfunction – Lack of knowledge on vehicle maintenance and safety can make it more likely for a teenage driver to experience a vehicle malfunction. Teen drivers should be knowledgeable about regular vehicle maintenance.
• Aggressive Driving – Teen drivers are more apt to want to show off in front of friends with aggressive driving which includes erratic lane changes, speeding, following too closely, or not obeying traffic signals/stop signs.
• Drowsy Driving – The effects of drowsiness on a driver mimic those of being intoxicated. Teen drivers should be instructed on the dangers of drowsy driving.
• Driving while Intoxicated – Under no conditions should teenagers get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
What Can Parents Can do to Promote Safe Driving Skills With Teenagers?
Pay attention and give your teenager support, listen to what they have to say, and: Practice. Practice. Practice. Inexperience is at the root of many teen car crashes, and parents should take an active role in teaching their children how to drive.
Every state varies in their requirements for obtaining a driver’s license, and parents should be knowledgeable about these laws and enforce them with their teen drivers. In addition to enrolling children in driver education programs, parents should be available for driving practice and for guidance and feedback. By getting in the car with your teenager, and seeing them drive in various conditions and performing various maneuvers and skills you are able to see where their strengths and weaknesses are as a driver, and what skills need to be improved upon. This can then be used to set driving rules/restrictions and rewards based on their hours of practice and performance. Parents should also practice good driving skills themselves and teach by example. There’s a wealth of information available for parents to take advantage of from teendriversource.
How Safe is Your Teenager’s Car?
You can look in the vehicle’s owner’s manual to find out the car’s safety features, but you may also want to know how that car performed in 5-Star Safety Ratings, which are performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and the Vehicle Ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
If you’re planning on buying your teen driver a new car, be sure to visit the above sites for the latest safety ratings. You will also want to make sure you have done plenty of research before you go to the dealership and have the most up-to-date pricing information to ensure you receive a fair, competitive market price for your new car. Go to the Military.com Auto Buying Center and find out what other people actually paid for a particular new car in the last 30 days by make and model and down to the trim levels and options. TrueCar also gets you an even better price from a trusted TrueCar Dealer in your local area, allowing you to lock-in an upfront price before you set foot in the dealership.
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