An American teenager’s sixteenth birthday generally comes with the freedom of releasing oneself from the shackles of the passenger seat. Teenagers are finally allowed to legally drive themselves and others to and from their favorite destinations. They can travel throughout their city or even state steering their cars and the lives in the direction they choose. A driver’s license allows teenagers to experience the thrill of cruising through life at their own speed. Of course, there is always tension between the privilege of being handed the keys and the responsibility of maneuvering safely through the public roadways. While teens embrace the change of pace, their newfound mobility understandably leaves many parents with anxiety. This anxiety is not unwarranted as teenagers statistically are involved in a great deal of accidents each year. Many teens struggle to recognize the consequences of distracted driving, sleep deprivation, and speeding until the possibility becomes a reality.
Teenage driving is a dangerous activity. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one leading cause of death for teens in this country. Every single day seven teens between the ages of 16 and 19 will die from a motor vehicle accident. That’s one teenager every three hours. During 2011, 2,560 teens suffered injuries that proved fatal after a car accident. In addition 292,000 were treated in emergency rooms around the country after a car accident. Considering that people between the ages of 15 – 24 represent only 14% of this nation’s population that figure is even more significant than it may appear at first glance. This age group accounts for a full 30% of the total costs of car accidents among males and 28% of the total costs for injuries among females. The total dollar amount for injuries relating to car accidents for men comes to a whopping $19 billion. For females, the total amount rings in at $7 billion. Although these statistics account for ages past the “teenage” years, the fact remains that the most at-risk group on the road are newly licensed drivers.
Recognizing the risk factors can help teens, their parents, and those they share the road with gain a little peace of mind. Teens are naturally geared to be bad at evaluating risks. Don’t engage in road rage behaviors with a young driver, as their tendency to escalate situations beyond their comfort zone is inherent. If you have a teenage driver, insist that speed limits are obeyed. During 2012, 37% of all male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age were speeding when they were involved in fatal accidents. Statistically speaking teens are notoriously bad at remembering to wear their seat belts. In 2013, only 55% of high school students reported that they always wear their seat belt. Seat belts save lives. It is much more likely that a person will walk away from an accident if they are wearing a seat belt prior to impact. The state of Massachusetts has continuously worked to create laws to help prevent further injury to teenage drivers.