Teenage drivers taking to the road for the first time have been causing premature gray hair in parents for as long as there have been automobiles. Their youth, inexperience, and belief in their own immortality combine to place them in a special category of risk when it comes to driving. Yet it can be argued, and proven statistically, that teens are at greater risk today than they were in the past.
Accidents are now the Number One Cause of Death for Teens
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, automobile accidents are now the number one cause of death for teens in the U.S. In 2012, over 2,100 teens were killed in crashes nationwide and more than 243,000 were treated for injuries. Though people between the ages of 15 and 24 make up only 14% of the population, they accounted for $26 billion of the total costs associated with car accidents. Those aged 16 to 19 were more at risk of being in an auto accident than any other age category.
Those are sobering statistics. Speeding, drinking, and not wearing a seatbelt were major contributors to teen auto accidents, but there’s a relatively new factor that is rapidly becoming one of the biggest threats to teenage drivers.
Texting and Driving is Deadly
Cynical adults often note that teens and their smartphones can hardly be separated these days, and for too many that’s all too true, even when they’re driving a car. According to one organization working to raise awareness about this growing problem, at least 82% of teens aged 16 and 17 own a cell phone, and the majority of those admitted in surveys that they had talked and texted while driving. Most them said that they don’t think that using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle was a problem, but it’s been shown that those who do spend approximately 10% of their driving time straying outside of their proper lane, and 13% of those 18 to 20 involved in an accident admitted they were on their phones when it happened.
Over a three year period in Massachusetts, from 2010 to 2013, over 180 people were killed in accidents that were proven to be directly related to texting, even though it was made illegal in 2010. As a result, law enforcement agencies in MA, with the help of generous federal funding, have started a major campaign to crack down on texting and driving. Fines and penalties can be significant, especially if there’s an accident involved.
Bay State Teens are Safest in the Country
Though the numbers nationwide for teen drivers are grim, Massachusetts residents, especially parents, can take some comfort from a recent study conducted by CarInsurance.com that shows teenage drivers in the Bay State are the safest in the country.
Using data collected from federal and state agencies, as well as insurance statistics, the industry group found that 32% of teens in Massachusetts text and otherwise use their cell phones while driving, the second lowest rate in the nation, while 7% admit to drinking and driving.
Specifically, the metrics used by the group to make their determinations were:
- Percentage of teen fatalities
- Graduated Driving License requirements and their effectiveness
- Teen drinking and texting rates
- Average insurance costs annually for teens
The survey results are good news for the citizens of Massachusetts, but clearly there’s a lot of room for improvement, and there are several common sense things that teen drivers can do to reduce their risk of having an accident.
If your teenager has been injured in an auto accident, contact the law offices of Peter Ventura for a free consultation about your rights and entitlement to compensation.
Image via Flickr by Atli Harðarson