Passing your driving test and getting the keys to your first car is a milestone in any teenager’s life and is symbolic of your progression into adult life and independence.
As we should all be painfully aware, despite the fact that driving can be a lot of fun and allows you a greater amount of personal freedom, it can also be extremely dangerous. When you consider that car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in the U.S. and in many countries around the world, you should quickly realize that the freedom of the road you have just acquired, could also have potentially fatal consequences.
There are many startling and worrying facts about teenage driving and whilst you may be a perfectly safe and responsible driver, it makes a lot of sense to at least be wary of the dangers that you may be facing as a young driver. This way you can give yourself a better chance of not contributing to some alarming statistics.
Fatal Car Accidents Involving Teenagers
It is a fact that drivers who are aged between 16 and 19 are up to four times more likely to die in a car crash than a driver who is aged between 25 and 69, so those early years on the road are definitely a danger zone for teenage drivers.
The first six months of your driving career are very significant, when you consider that statistically speaking, this is the period where you are most likely to have a fatal crash.
Every year in the U.S. alone, over 2,500 teenage drivers aged between 16 and 19 are killed and about 300,000 are treated in emergency departments. This adds up to about 7 teenagers dying every single day from motor vehicle injuries. Young people who are aged between 15 and 24 years of age account for about 14% of the U.S. population. Yet alarmingly, they account for some 30% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries amongst males and 28% of injuries involving females.
America has a high mortality rate when comparing the rate of traffic deaths to some other countries. This is particularly significant when you consider that alcohol plays a key part in many road crashes around the globe, and that drinking laws in the States are more punitive than many other places.
The motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers aged 16 to 19 was almost two times that of their female counterparts.
Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
Putting your own life at risk behind the wheel is bad enough, but the statistics involving teen drivers and their passengers don’t make good reading either. Teenage drivers contribute to about 60% of all teen passenger deaths and nearly 20% of all deaths on the roads in the United States, irrespective of the passenger’s age.
When you consider the level of general awareness surrounding the use of seatbelts and how they improve your safety, it is quite a revelation to discover that over 50% of teenagers killed in car crashes were found not to be wearing their seat belts. So buckle up and encourage your passengers to do the same.
Distractions Cause Accidents
Distracted driving is a major source of accidents on our roads everywhere and teenage driver deaths and accidents involve a number of specific distractions.
- 37% caused by texting while driving
- 20% caused by the emotional state of the teenage driver at the time of the accident
- 19% due to having friends in the car who had distracted them from concentrating on the road
- 14% were talking on their phone when they crashed
- 7% were found to be eating or drinking
- 4% were distracted by the music they were listening to
Bad Time To Drive
It is probably not a great surprise that the summer months are considered to be the most deadly times to be driving a car when you are a teenager.
May, June, July and August are peak months for teenage road accidents and fatalities, with the 1st of January singled out as a day that is an especially treacherous one for teen drivers.
Weekends account for over 50% of all teenage car deaths and just over 40% of all fatalities involving drivers less than 21 years of age, occur between the hours of 9pm and 6am.
Improving Your Odds Of Survival
Having seen the statistics and the dangers facing all teenager drivers, wherever you happen to be in the world, there are definitely some things that you can do to improve your odds of survival and become a better driver into the bargain.
Choose An Appropriate Vehicle
A good starting point is choosing a suitable vehicle to drive.
Young drivers should avoid driving high horsepower cars. It may be tempting to get behind the wheel of a more powerful car but the more power to the pedal the greater your chance of a crash or a speeding ticket. The insurance is also going to be more prohibitive as well. So start out with a smaller car while you gain your driving skills on the road.
Try to find a car that has a good safety record and if you can get a slightly bigger or heavier car that is suitable, this may help to improve your odds of surviving a crash.
How Parents Can Help
If you are a parent of a teenage driver, there are definitely some things that you can do in order to keep your teenage son or daughter away from danger on the road as best as possible.
You may not always be popular as a parent when you try to provide driving advice to your teenage offspring but parents do tend to have more influence on driver education than is often credited to them. Try not to rely solely on driver education, which often provides the basics and mechanics needed to drive a vehicle, yet does not focus so much on actual safer driving skills, which are gained through experience.
Young drivers often overestimate their level of driving skill and also tend to underestimate their level of vulnerability, so you can help them in these areas with some parental guidance.
Try to restrict the level of night driving, especially in the early months. When you consider the high level of crashes that involve teenage drivers between 9pm and 6am, it makes a lot of sense to try and impose some sort of curfew for their own safety. Where possible, offer them a lift or give funds for a taxi ride on special occasions and celebrations.
Another key bit of advice that parents can impart to their teenage son or daughter, is to restrict the number of passengers they have in the car. Teenage passengers are a major distraction and can also sometimes lead to the driver being encouraged to take risks, so try to advise a restriction on passengers, especially in the early months of their driving career.
General Driving Advice
- Make sure you obey the speed limits. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react and speeding is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
- Always wear your seat-belt – and make sure all passengers buckle up, too. Never try to fit more people in the car than you have seat belts for them to use.
- Adjust the headrest on your seat to a height behind your head, not your neck, as this will help to minimize whiplash in the event of an accident.
- Always keep your windshield clean. At certain times of the day, light reflecting off your dirty windshield can momentarily blind you, and it only takes a split second to crash.
Safety experts suggest you hold the steering wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock position on the wheel, or even lower at 4 and 8 o’clock. If you are involved in an accident and the airbags are deployed, you will be safer with your hands not flying into your face from the impact of the airbags.
Consider Other Drivers
Always try to drive with consideration for other road users and don’t make assumptions about what other drivers are going to do.
Not everyone is going to be courteous and compliant about sharing the road with you so watch out for aggressive drivers and try to keep out of their way, no matter how much they annoy you.
Do not pull out in front of anyone or swerve into another lane without plenty of notice, and avoid tailgating, as driving too close to another driver is never going to be a good idea.
Hopefully, the crash statistics will have given you a clear idea of the potential dangers that you are facing when you get behind the wheel.
Texting while driving is now a major issue and nearly 50% of teenage drivers who were recently surveyed admitted to texting while driving. It is not worth it and your intended message can often wait for a safer time when the car engine is off. So keep yourself from danger and don’t be tempted to pick up your phone while driving.
Drinking alcohol and driving are a complete no-go area and you should never be tempted to drink and drive. Drugs are also a major issue and your chances of being involved in a crash rise dramatically, so do not get behind the wheel if you are under the influence in any way at all.
Distractions are all around us and even simple things like changing the radio station or turning round to a friend for a brief second is enough to cause an accident. Eliminating distractions is vital to increasing your odds of survival and if you can limit your passengers to parents or instructors for the first 12 months of driving, you will be greatly improving your odds of staying safe on the road.