Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teen Drivers - Crash Factors

School is opening, will your teen be driving to school? Be an educated parent, learn about teen driving safety - it can save lives.

“They’ve got the stickers on their cars ‘no fear’ it’s absolutely true, they don’t stop to think about it.”

– Robert Ruede, son Dan was scarred when the car his friend was driving hit a tree.

In terms of car crashes, we are about to enter the most dangerous month of the year: September. The highest number of accidents happen in September, the worst day is Saturday and the worst time are the hours just before midnight.

“Went into a tree at about 50 miles per hour,” says 19-year-old Dan Ruede, describing how the friend he was driving with last February lost control of the car and went off the road.

Now, two months after the accident, Dan’s face is still streaked with scars from the shattered windshield.

“He’s scarred. That’s never going to go away,” says Dan’s father Robert, “His eye need more surgery. His eyelashes are growing into his eye.”

The factors that likely contributed to Dan’s crash are all too common.

One, it happened at night, when nearly two thirds of accidents involving 16 t0 19 year olds occur.

“What you have to recognize is that it’s more difficult to drive at night and that parents and teenagers need to practice nighttime driving,” says Len Pagano with the Safe America Foundation, “not just assume that you know, once they have a license they should be able to drive 24-7.”

Two, Dan was with a friend, and adding one teenager in a car doubles the chance of a serious accident.

“You better have a pretty good idea of whether or not they can handle the distraction of having other passengers. And if they’re not up to it, then you shouldn’t allow them to travel with other teens,” says Pagano.

Three, Dan and his friend were driving on a narrow, tree-lined street where the margin for error is small.

“Parents need to be thinking about identifying where they know there are hazards on those roads and try to work with the teen to say, you know it wouldn’t take a whole lot for you to end up in a tree,” says Pagano.

He says when a driver is inexperienced, parents should map out safe routes. And… drive with your child on every kind of road and condition before ever letting them handle it on their own.

“At the end of the day most kids recognize they do have a lack of knowledge,” he says.

But , Dan adds… an excess of confidence, “until the crash actually happened it was never… I kind of seemed invincible.”

Tips for Parents

Driving is a risky proposition for many American teenagers. Despite spending less time driving than all other age groups (except the elderly), teenage drivers have disproportionately high rates of crashes and fatalities. Experts say that the high accident rates for teens are caused by a combination of factors, most notably teenagers’ immaturity and lack of driving experience. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System collected the following data about teenage drivers:

■Crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 19-year-olds.
■The majority of teenage passenger deaths occur when another teen is driving.
■Two-thirds of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes are male.
■Among teenage drivers, alcohol is a factor in 23 percent of fatal accidents involving males, 10 percent of fatal accidents involving females.
■More than half of the teenage motor vehicle deaths occur on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Of those deaths, 41 percent occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The risks involved in letting a teenager get behind the wheel of a car are very real, but there are safety measures parents can take to improve the odds for beginning drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers these tips:

■Don’t rely solely on driver education. High school driving courses may be the most convenient way to teach driving skills, but they don’t produce safer drivers.
■Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teen learn how to drive. Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after your teen graduates from a learner’s permit to a restricted or full license.
■Remember, you are a role model. New drivers learn by example, so you must practice safe driving. Teens with crashes and violations often have parents with poor driving records.
■Restrict night driving. Most nighttime fatal crashes among young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so your teen shouldn’t be driving much later than 9 p.m.
■Restrict passengers. Teenage passengers in a vehicle can distract a new driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking. The best policy is to restrict the number of teenage passengers your teen is allowed to transport.
■Require safety belts. Don’t assume that your teen is using a safety belt when he’s with his friends, just because he uses it when you’re together. Research shows that safety belt use is lower among teens than older people. Insist that your teen use a safety belt at all times.
■Prohibit driving after drinking. Make it clear that it is illegal and highly dangerous for a teen to drive after drinking alcohol or using any other drug. While alcohol isn’t a factor in most crashes of teenagers, even small amounts of alcohol are impairing for teens.
■Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teens should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash. For example, small cars don’t offer the best protection in a crash. Avoid cars with performance images that might encourage speeding. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles, particularly the smaller ones, which are more prone to roll over.
■Drive Home Safe
■Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
■National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

No comments: