Putting a Stop to the Number One Killer of Teens

by Jill Taylor on April 9, 2013

in Safety

teenHanding over the car keys to your teen can be one of the scariest steps as a parent. You may feel relieved of your duties as a personal taxi driver, but letting her out on the open road will cause a great deal of anxiety, and rightfully so.

Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teenagers. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), “In 2010, about 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16 to 19 were killed and almost 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.” These numbers haunt parents everywhere.

Ravonne McCray from McLane Children’s Scott & White trauma injury prevention speaks out about accidents for our Teen Health Month.

“At the McLane Children’s Scott & White emergency room, we see patients on a daily basis for motor vehicle crashes,” says McCray. “Weekends tend to be our busiest with more people on the road. Some of the injuries may be minor, some are very serious, and others result in death.”

Talk to your Teen about the Risks

In order to prepare your teenager for driving, it is more than turn signals and driver’s education. It’s important to teach to him about the risks he takes on, every time he turns the key.

I remember when I got my learner’s permit, I was intimidated, because I was operating a huge vehicle that put me responsible for other’s lives, but at the same time I was excited to gain a sense of freedom.

My father sat me down and talked to me about driving. He set clear rules about cell phones and the dangers of speeding and highways. I remember him clearly advising me to say a silent prayer every time I buckled up for safety on the roads.

“The good news is that these crashes are preventable,” says McCray.” Parents are the key to helping minimize the risks that inexperienced drivers face.”

The CDC provides a guide for parents and teens, “Parents: Get the Facts on Safe Teen Driving” with tips, suggestions, and an overview of driving laws to help you educate your teen.

Fast, Furious and Fatal

Teens are so anxious to drive, because they will finally feel free. No more waiting for mom and dad to come and pick them up. No more phone calls or coordinating rides. They can come and go, and this independence is refreshing.

However, the feeling of freedom can be taken away in an instant. You’re not free when you suffer severe injuries or cause heartache to others. Worst of all, freedom is lost when car accidents turn fatal.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 14 fatal crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 20 occur each day. More than 5,000 people die in crashes involving teen drivers each year.

These statistics can be just numbers, or they can be people. Every person who dies in a car crash was loved and cherished. The number of youth involved in car accidents is especially worrisome, because even though they represent less than 15% of the population, they account for 30% of the total cost of motor vehicle crashes.

It is more than the cost of healthcare, but the costs of lives. These numbers are staggering and it begs the question, why are teens involved in so many car accidents?

Why the Crashes?

Teenagers are four times more likely to get into a car accident than an adult, although accidents happen to a wide spectrum of people.

Consider the following reasons McCray shared as to why teenagers are more likely to get into an accident:

  1. Inexperience on the roads, especially during the first 1,000 miles of driving.
  2. Electronic devices are distracting, and texting and driving is extremely dangerous as you take your eyes off the road for nearly five seconds.
  3. Passengers tend to increase risk of a crash by 48%.
  4. Risky driving with speeding or not using seat belts.
  5. Using alcohol or drugs to impair judgment and increase danger.

Driver’s Education for All

McLane Children’s Scott & White Trauma Center offers free education for parents, teen drivers, schools, and the community about the risks of teen drivers and the prevention of these crashes.

You can go to our website for more information about the RED (Reality Education for Drivers) program that McCray and others offer to the community or our Child Passenger Safety Information with car seat tips for families.

What do you do to help your teen stay safe on the roads?


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