Traffic Accident Deaths Involving Teen Drivers Falling: Report

Traffic accidents remain the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, but the rate of deaths involving teen driver accidents has dropped dramatically from 2005 to 2011, according to a new report. 

A teen driver safety report was issued by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm on April 4, titled “Miles to go: Focusing on Risk for Teen Driver Safety”. The report found that there was a 30% decrease in traffic accident deaths where teens were drivers.

This is the third report in an annual series issued by the groups, with the first released in January 2011, focusing on 11 indicators that measure the impact of teen driver safety policy and programs. Key issues examined include texting while driving, driving after drinking, speeding and low seat belt use.

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Much progress was revealed in many risk factors for teen drivers aged 15 to 19 years old. The report revealed that 54% of teen passengers report always wearing a seat belt, and there was a 14% decrease in teens driving with other teens who drank, down to less than 25%.

However, researchers say these areas remain significant problems for teen drivers. Speeding continues to play a significant role in more than half of fatal crashes which involved teens in 2011 and one-third of teen drivers still report texting or emailing while driving.

“Texting or emailing while driving is especially dangerous for teen drivers. We are encouraged that abstaining from cell phone use while driving is currently the norm for teens – most are not doing this dangerous behavior,” said Dennis Durbin, M.D., M.S.C.E., co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP, in a press release regarding the report. “To reach the teens that still do text or email while driving, messages should focus on teens’ positive safety beliefs about refraining from cell phone use while driving, rather than turning to scare tactics that always emphasize the negative consequences.”

Even more concerning, 41% of car accidents involved teens who had a blood alcohol content higher than 0.01, a rate which increased from 38 percent in 2008.

Teens continue to have car accidents at four times the rate of adult drivers ages 25 to 69. To that end, researchers identified key areas with the greatest potential to reduce teen crashes and death. By focusing efforts on reducing distractions from passengers and technology, improving skills in scanning, hazard detection, speed management and increasing seat belt researchers believe they can help reduce fatalities and injuries involved in teen crashes.

“Since 2005, State Farm and CHOP have been working together to improve teen driver safety. While this report highlights the gains we are making, we still can do much more to reduce teen driver crash-related injuries and deaths,” said Chris Mullen, director of Technology Research, Strategic Resources at State Farm. “Promising strategies include programs that encourage parents to enforce Graduate Driver Licensing provisions limiting the number of friends their newly licensed teens may drive, as well as those that support safe passenger behavior and increased parental involvement in the learning to drive process.”


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