Teenagers have been waiting for it since the beginning of the school year: when the last bell rings, they’ll have three whole months of freedom. Unfortunately, what many of them don’t realize is that roughly 200 teen drivers and their passengers will be killed in summer traffic crashes, mostly as a result of reckless driving behaviors.
Our attorneys want all Texans—teenagers, parents, drivers, cyclists, and even pedestrians—to stay alert and safe this summer. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of teenage car crashes, as well as how you can help everyone avoid an accident this summer.
What Are the Biggest Causes of Teenager Car Accidents?
Teenagers in the U.S. are more likely to be killed in motor vehicle crashes than during any other activities. Nearly 3,000 teens were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2013, the majority of which occurred between Memorial Day and Labor Day. So why do these accidents keep happening over the summer?
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently identified the three likeliest causes of teen car accidents:
- Careless driving. Crash data indicates that 75 percent of serious teen driver crashes are due to "critical errors" on the part of the driver. Roughly half of these crashes included a driver who was speeding, failed to scan the road for hazards, or was distracted (or a combination of these factors).
- Drowsiness. One in every five fatal crashes in all age groups involves driver fatigue. One in every three drowsy driving accidents result in at least one injury, and 6,000 fatigue-related crashes each year cause at least one fatality. Teenagers are especially at risk of drowsy driving accidents, since teens who get less than 8 hours of sleep per night increase their risks of a crash by 33 percent.
- Distractions. Distracted driving continues to be a problem among teenagers, with 10 percent of drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes in 2013 distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that texting while driving can be up to six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, and that engaging in visual-manual behaviors like texting increases crash risk threefold. However, it’s not just phones that cause distractions. Talking to other passengers in the vehicle accounts for roughly 15 percent of teen crashes, while attending to a problem (such as a spilled drink) or looking at something inside the vehicle caused 11 percent of crashes.
How Can I Help Prevent Teen Car Accidents During the Summer?
Even if you are not a parent or a teenager, you can still be injured in an accident with a driver under the age of 21. Teen driver accidents place everyone at risk, and everyone should be aware of injury and prevention techniques such as:
- Wear seat belts. Seat belts are the easiest and most effective way to protect all drivers and passengers in a crash. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 55 percent of high school students responded that they wear seat belts when riding as a passenger—the lowest seat belt use rate in the U.S. Since fatal crash rates for 16–19 year-olds are nearly three times the rate for drivers over age 20, it is especially important for teens to buckle up.
- Stay alert at peak crash times. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that 54 percent of teen car crash deaths in the summer months occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. If you need to drive during nights and weekends during the summer, be aware that these are peak crash times and be hyper-vigilant.
- Be a safety-conscious passenger. In 2013, 78 percent of deaths caused by teen drivers were actually passengers—and in most cases, the deaths of teenage passengers occurred in cars driven by another teenager. If you are a parent, you should set limits on how many teens can ride in the car at once, and stress seat belt use and adherence to curfews.
- Follow state laws. Texas requires graduated driving licenses for teenagers, restricting their ability to drive with other teenagers and prohibiting them from driving between midnight and 5:00 a.m. In addition, teenagers driving under a provisional license are forbidden to use any wireless communication device while driving, including hands-free devices, until they turn 18 years old.
Another easy way to prevent summer crashes is by alerting your friends and family of their risks. Please consider sharing this article on Facebook or via email to keep your loved ones safe and ensure that your teenagers make it through high school safely!