A recent report suggests that the impact of crashes involving teen drivers goes beyond just their family and friends.
According to a report from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance, in the year 2008 681,000 people were involved in car crashes where a teenager was behind the wheel. These crashes resulted in more than 40,000 injuries and nearly thirty percent of the fatalities were not teenagers.
Dennis Durbin, M.D., co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP, and a co-author of the report, explained, “When most people think about those affected by teen driver crashes, they think of the teens behind the wheel. We must also consider the significant impact of these crashes on other members of our communities: occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road-users.”
He added, “Whether we have a teen driver in our family or not, we should all care about this issue. This report provides a concrete way to measure the effectiveness of laws, education, and other programs in reducing teen crashes and their impact on communities.”
The report in question highlights eleven different indicators which can help safety practitioners and policymakers determine their progress in key areas affecting safe teen driving. Four key behaviors common to teen drivers that contribute to crashes or crash fatalities, which can also be tracked using federal data sources, were focused upon. Those behaviors are alcohol use, distracted driving, failure to use seat belts, and speeding.
Dr. Durbin, who is also an emergency physician, elaborated, “Reducing speeding and alcohol use, increasing seat belt use, and eliminating distractions for teen drivers are the four calls-to-action we see in this report that would have great impact on reducing injuries and fatalities for all road users. More than half of teens who were fatally injured in crashes were speeding, 40 percent had a positive blood alcohol level, more than half were not wearing seat belts, and 16 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.”
But researchers remind us that it’s not only teenagers who are being injured or killed. Thousands more – parents friends, other drivers, pedestrians – suffer everything from emotional trauma to injury to death because of teens behind the wheel.
Most of the tragedies preventable, researchers say, because they’re caused mainly by inexperience. They endorse Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws which allow teens to gain experience in low-risk conditions. They also recommend that public health programs and driver education classes should focus on those four key behaviors, as they’re known to increase the risk of crashing.