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Each and every time our 18-year-old son asks me for the car keys it takes my breath away.
Here is why:
The leading cause of death for teens, aged 16-19, is car crashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of eight teens died every day in 2009 from injuries sustained in a car wreck. That same year, more than 350,000 teens, aged 15-19, were sent to the emergency room with injuries after a car accident. In fact, the rate of car wrecks is higher for this age than any other age group on the road.
Quite a few factors are the cause of these statistics. Teenage drivers, with other teens in the car, increase the risk for a crash. Twice as many accidents involving teens happen after dark. Furthermore, teens who have held their licenses for a year or less are at the greatest risk, among their age group, to have a crash. Data also suggests that teen boys are nearly twice as likely as teen girls to be involved in a car accident.
Our teens aren’t buckling up, either. Again, according to the CDC, only about 10 percent bother to wear their seat belts.
Now the good news: teen car crashes are preventable and we have actually seen the numbers steadily decreasing. The decline in deaths began in 1996 after states started to adopt graduated driver licensing programs. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the most effective programs involve three stages, or graduations, of teen licensing. The first stage, at age 16, calls for 30 or more hours of driving with another licensed adult in the car. At 16 ½ or older, teens can pass a road test and be granted a license with restrictions. These restrictions include no late night driving and a limit of just one other teen passenger in the car. The third stage is a license, with no restrictions, at 19. In addition to these license restrictions for teenagers, most states are passing legislation to ban text messaging and calls while driving.
As parents, we hold the key to our teen drivers’ safety. Talk about safety, set limits, and sign a pledge with your teenager to stay safe behind the wheel.
Download a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement at: