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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Facts Behind Teen Crashes

The government, organizations, parents and other teens themselves have been concerned about teen driving safety since they started issuing licenses. How could they not? Car crashes are the leading cause for teen deaths in the U.S. every year --- which is mind-boggling.

Ads for safety have existed for the longest time, urging teens to drive safely, to take caution, to think of others --- and though the number has dropped in recent years, the question is: why do teens still get involved in crashes? Are laws not enough to change teen behavior? Should the government, organizations, parents and other teens find other ways of keeping teen drivers safe?

If we're talking about fatal crashes by age, 69.5% represent teen drivers who are in the age range of 15-20, significantly higher than other ages. ( In that percentage, there are more males, 25% have high blood alcohol levels, while 58% weren't wearing seatbelts.

Here's a select breakdown from AllState's teen driving survey last year (2009) to help shed the light on why teens are still getting into crashes: (To see the complete highlights of the survey, check:

Texting is teen's biggest distraction behind the wheel.

  • More than 49% of teens report texting as a distraction, up from 31% in 2005

  • 82% of teens report using cell phones while driving, while 23% admit to drinking and driving

  • More than 60% of teens worry about getting into a car accident, but still admit to practicing distracting or harmful actions while driving

Drunk driving is still a major concern, but it seems that cell phones are even more harmful for a teen driver's health. An 18% growth in texting while driving over the last 5 years shows us that, teens are more connected now, and they like to keep it that way --- even while driving. 1 in 3 teenagers have, according to surveys, admitted to texting while driving. Fortunately, laws are being put into place to eliminate this. Think about it: there have been laws against drunk driving, and that number's significantly lower than the ones for texting while driving, which means it's working.

Girls express a new need for speed.

  • Nearly half (48%) of girls admit they are likely to speed more than 10 m.p.h. over the limit, versus 36% of boys

  • 16% of girls describe their driving as aggressive, up from 9% in 2005

Teens are at the stage of chasing thrills --- simply because they haven't fully developed the part of the brain that urges them to think twice about risks. Surprisingly, matched with the statistic below, girls and boys make for a dangerous combination on the road, it seems.

Driving aggression and speeding among teen boys is decreasing.

  • 13% of boys describe their driving as aggressive, down from 20% in 2005

  • 19% of boys admit to speeding 10 m.p.h. or more over the speed limit, down from 25% in 2005

  • Fewer boys (46%) report being in car crashes in 2009 compared to 58% in 2005

How do we define "aggression"? Though the numbers have dropped, it's not nearly low enough. Are parents or guardians allowing their teenage boys to storm off and take the car? Is it really outside their power to restrict angry teens from speeding off? Instead of asking how we could lessen teenage crashes, a better question could be: "How can we stop teens from driving when they are in an unstable emotional state?"

Teens still feel "it's them, not me" when it comes to aggressive driving.

  • A majority of teens (65%) are confident in their own driving skills

  • 77% of teens admit they have felt unsafe with another teen's driving

  • 82% of teens want to be known as a safe/skilled driver

  • Only 23% of teens agree that most teens are good drivers

This shows that, while teen drivers are confident in their own driving skills, other teens have concerns about their peers driving skills. If newly licensed drivers spend even an hour practicing their driving skills, we're likely to see teens who are confident not just in their own driving, but also believe other teen drivers are as good as they think they are. Which is where teen-oriented/teen-founded driving safety groups have focused when they discuss distracted driving or aggressive driving.

Fewer teens are willing to speak up in risky driving situations.

  • Only 59% of teens will speak up if they are scared or uncomfortable as a passenger

  • Girls are less likely to speak up than boys - 53% of girls reported they would say something about someone's driving, versus 66% of boys

  • Fear of social rejection and being ignored top the list of reasons why teens don't speak up when they feel unsafe as a passenger.

This is common behavior: who would like to be picked on for their driving skills? Building confidence in teens to voice their concerns could help avoid crashes down the road. This comes with gaining experience through practicing in many different driving conditions.

Teens report safer driving practices than their parents.

  • More teens (22%) consider parents in the car more distracting than having their friends in the car (14%)

  • 92% of teens report wearing their seatbelt and only 88% report that their parents wear seatbelts

  • 84% of teens signal when changing lanes while 76% report that their parents signal when changing lanes

  • More than 80% of teens rate parents as their No. 1 driving influence, but are spending less behind-the-wheel time with their parents

Is there more pressure to drive better with parents in the car? Could trying to shape a teen's driving skill cause them to lose confidence and miss out on the important driving lessons? It seems so. Letting teens slowly gain driving skills on their own, and having a parent who practices driving safety may be the key.

Each day, laws and policies are being put into action to lessen teen crashes, but with this, teen driving behavior also changes, and keeping up with those changes could mean the difference between arriving at their destination, or getting into a car crash.


  • Grannies vs Teens: Who's Scarier On The Road?

    • Shifting Teen Attitudes: 2009 State of Teen Driving -

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