For parent, it is a proud moment when you son or daughter first gets behind the wheel and shows that he or she is capable of operating a motor vehicle. Coming of age moments of this type are typically rather bittersweet, however. On one hand, you are happy and proud to see your child’s growth and development over the years and this latest milestone is welcome. But, on the other hand, you may realize that your son or daughter is entering into adulthood and into the real world. While you were there to protect your son and daughter for much of the early years in their life, you will be less able to control the circumstances and situations a young adult may find themselves facing. Furthermore, you fear that the teenage desire for independence combined with the ability to drive may lead to difficult or dangerous situations where your child can sustain a life-altering or life-ending injury in an auto accident.
Unfortunately, according to statistics provided by National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), these fears are well-founded. The leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults from age 15 to 20 is vehicular accidents. In 2013, NHTSA stats show that more than 2,500 fatalities involving teen and young adult drivers occurred. However, perhaps part of the reason as to why teens are so likely to experience an accident of this type is the fact that the y are the least experienced drivers on the roads. Furthermore, only about 25 percent of parents have actually had a serious conversation regarding vehicle and highway safety. Parents are encouraged to make a pint to speak with their child regarding these five risk factors identified by researchers at NHTSA.
Teen Auto Accident Risk Factor #1: Use of Alcohol
Teenagers should never drink alcohol because the legal drinking age in all 50 states is 21 years of age. Underage consumption of alcohol is a crime and the child and party who supplies the alcohol can face serious legal consequences. With that point made, teens still find a way to manage to get their hands on beer, wine, and other types of liquor. While the use of alcohol increases the risk of a car wreck for any driver, teens are especially vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Teens are not fully developed, typically not accustomed to the effects of alcohol, and are inexperienced drivers. This is a deadly combination evidenced by NHTSA reports showing that 30 percent of teens and young adults killed in a car accident had alcohol in their system due to drinking before the car accident.
Teen Auto Accident Risk Factor #2: Speeding
Speeding is also a behavior that is closely associated with teenage car, truck, and SUV accidents. When a driver increases his or her speed, the driver reduces his or her margin for error. In short, increased speeds should lead to increased following distances, but many teen drivers are unaware of just how much speeding can reduce the amount of time a driver has to react. In fact, NHTSA statistics show that speeding or excessive speed played a role in 42 percent of fatal accidents involving young drivers.
Teen Auto Accident Risk Factor #3: Cell Phone Use While Driving
Distractions have always been an issue for drivers of vehicles, however it seems that the problem has become more pronounced due to the proliferation of cell phones and other electronic devices. For millennials whose eyes seemed to be permanently glued to a screen while their thumbs do the talking, this habit can be particularly difficult to break. Unfortunately, the use of smartphones and other electronic devices while driving requires the driver to take his or her focus away from the roadway. 11 percent of teen and young adult drivers killed in an accident appeared to be distracted at the time of impact. Furthermore, 318 people died in 2013 due to collisions with distracted teen drivers.
Teen Auto Accident Risk Factor #4: Driving With Additional Passengers
State legislators have long grappled with the problems caused by young teen drivers who are first getting behind the wheel. In many states, including in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, graduated driver’s license programs have been established which limit the driving privileges of young drivers. These programs have been established with good reason. A teen driver is two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in reckless or dangerous driving behaviors when the teen driver has one friend or unrelated peer in the vehicle. When the teen is accompanied by two peers, that risk increases to three times more likely to engage in unsafe driving behaviors. The good news is that the provisional licenses in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey contemplate this fact. In Pennsylvania, for the first six month of a driver’s provisional license they are permitted to carry only one non-family member passenger under the age of 18. After six months the driver can carry up to 3 friends or peers. In New Jersey, the young driver is restricted to one non-family member passenger under the age of 18.
Teen Auto Accident Risk Factor #5: Failure to Buckle-up and Use a Seat Belt
While the last recommendation made by NHTSA isn’t necessarily a step that can prevent an accident, adherence to this advice can prevent even more serious injuries from being inflicted during a violent car crash. In short, seat belts have been proven as an essential safety tool that greatly improves accident injury outcomes. Seat belts restrain a driver or vehicle passenger during a car accident preventing them from being thrown around the vehicle or launched from the vehicle and onto the roadway. Unfortunately, it seems that there is still some social stigma among teens regarding the use of seat belts. Perhaps it is the feeling of the invulnerability of youth and the desire to fit-in that drives this behavior, but such action is unreasonably risky. 55 percent of all teenagers and young adults killed in vehicular accidents were not wearing their safety belt at the time of the accident.
Parents: Discuss Vehicle & Highway Safety With Your Children
Talking about scenarios your child may face and potential ways they can responsibly address the situation without facing significant social consequences can give your child the tools he or she needs to successfully navigate one of the challenges of young adulthood. In any case, simply discussing your concerns may cause your child to take an extra second when faced with an important decision and to make the safe and responsible choice. However, it is a dangerous world and many drivers – even professional commercial drivers – can take shortcuts or unnecessary risks. If your child has already suffered a life-ending or life-altering injury due to a Philadelphia car accident, the experienced car wreck lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for you. To schedule a confidential, no-cost personal injury consultation call (215) 246-9000. A Delaware County car accident lawyer will be available to help you.