Why Crashes Don’t Just Happen
Why Teens May Crash
It’s important to understand why teens crash at a higher rate than adults. There are many factors that come into play, but there are several common critical errors inexperienced teen drivers make that lead to serious crashes. These include lack of scanning to detect and respond to hazards, driving too fast for road conditions, and being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle. Teens also buckle up the least of any age group, and the consequences are deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009 the majority (56 percent) of teens and young adults ages 16 to 20 that died in crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
Distractions such as peer passengers (driving someone around your own age) and talking or texting on a cell phone while driving can be deadly for teens. Driving a friend home from practice or to the movies may seem harmless, but your crash risk doubles if you have one peer passenger in the car and actually more than triples with two or more peer passengers. Cell phones pose another major threat. Although many people consider a hands-free cell a safe option, crash risk is higher when ANY type of cell phone is used. These distractions are so dangerous because they take your focus off of the road and lower your reaction time for dealing with potential hazards.
When we spoke to high school students across the country during our National Young Driver Survey (NYDS), these teens defined speeding as driving at least 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. In truth, going even one mile per hour over the speed limit is considered speeding. Speeding is very dangerous because it increases the distance you need to be able to stop the car while reducing your reaction time to avoid a potential collision. In fact, among serious crashes where teen driver error was the cause, 21 percent occured due to going too fast for road conditions.
Driving At Night
Teens are far more likely to be in serious crashes at night. Driving at night can be very different from driving during the day. At night you have less time to see and react to road signs, upcoming curves, a car swerving into your lane, a kid crossing the street, or other things. That’s why you have to slow down and be more cautious. As you become more experienced, you will learn to recognize and avoid hazards more quickly. With practice and time, you will become a better nighttime driver.
Seat Belt Use
Why do teens die in crashes? Even though most teens do wear a seat belt, unfortunately teens and young adults ages 16 to 24 have the lowest seat belt use of any age group (80 percent.) Seat belt use reduces the possibility of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent. According to a recent CHOP study, teens who live in states with primary enforcement seat belt laws are 12 percent more likely to wear their seat belt as a driver and 15 percent more likely to buckle up as a passenger than those who reside in states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws.