Over the past decade, the number of teenage drivers who have been involved in fatal car accidents has dropped by more than 35 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although this is certainly measurable progress, car accidents remain the leading cause of death for teenagers in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States, which is why this week has been declared National Teen Driver Safety Week.
According to the NHTSA, more than 2,300 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 were killed in car accidents in the U.S. in 2009. There were three common mistakes that were at least partially responsible for nearly 60 percent of those accidents: a lack of attention, a failure to yield, and a failure to slow down.
In a recent study of car accidents involving teenagers, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that teen drivers are 50 percent more likely to be involved in a car accident during their first month of driving than they are after their first year. In addition, they are twice as likely to crash during that first month than they are after two years of driving.
This is likely due to the shift in teen driving habits once their passengers change from parents to friends. As previously stated, one of the most common mistakes among teenage drivers is a failure to pay attention. If they have distractions from friends, loud music, or cell phones, combined with inexperience, it is easy to see how more accidents occur.
However, parents can continue to enforce safe driving behaviors even when they are no longer in the vehicle, by setting rules, talking to their children about their driving habits and emphasizing safe driving behaviors.
Source: Washington Post, "Teen drivers most likely to crash in first month of solo driving," Mark Berman, Oct. 15, 2011