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Traumatic Brain Injuries in Teen Crashes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) for teens (ages 15- to 19). According to recent CHOP research, head trauma affects millions of Americans each year and has significant morbidity and economic costs to society. In 2011, traffic-related head trauma accounted for an estimated 1.82 million visits to Emergency Departments. 

What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

When a brain is exposed to mechanical energy that exceeds its tolerance, injury occurs. This is usually a blow or jolt to the head or body or a penetrating head injury. It can disrupt normal brain function and have serious side effects. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” such as a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” such as an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. Overall, the majority of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.

How to Prevent Car Crash-related TBI

Since full recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI) is not always achievable, there may be life-long impact from TBI on teens and their families. The brain is the least likely organ to heal so prevention of TBI is the best medicine. Research shows that the first line of defense against TBI is to prevent the crash:

  • Teen drivers need plenty of quality supervised practice in a variety of driving environments and conditions before driving without an adult. 
  • Teens can also lower their risk of a crash by following Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL), provisions which keep teens out of high risk driving situations (such as nighttime and driving with peer passengers) while they are given a chance to develop driving skills in lower risk situations.

Research shows that the second line of defense against TBI is to encourage teens to consistently wear their seat belts, on every drive, and every time. Even with lots of adult-supervised  practice and following GDL, crashes may occur.  Teen drivers should consistently use their seat belt and  make sure all passengers do too to reduce the risk of a head injury in a crash.


prevent traumatic brain injuries in teen drivers

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