Teenage occupants (ages 16-19) accounted for 60% of vehicle deaths in 2012. Of these deaths, 54 percent occurred in vehicles driven by other teens. Moreover, 14 percent of accident involving passengers of all ages occurred when a teenager was behind the wheel. These are startling statistics for teenager deaths for two reasons: first, the loss of life at such a young age and second, teenagers do not make up a large portion of the US population.
The scope of the issue
In 2010, roughly, 2,700 teenagers (between the ages of 16 and 19) lost their lives and another 282,000 were treated for injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes.
While these rates are less in recent years than previously, these kinds of deaths is still a big problem in the US. Young people make up roughly 14% of the U.S. population (according to the CDC) in 2010 (the time of the most recent census). However, given this relatively low population percentage, they result in 30% of the total costs associated with motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% among females.
Who is most at risk of death?
In general, teens aged 16 through 19 are most at risk (almost three time more likely, in fact) of death and/or injury in a motor vehicle accident. That said, there are three groups of teenagers even more likely than others to be involved in a fatal car crash.
The death rate of male drivers (as well as passengers 16 to 19) is almost two times higher than that of female drivers
- Teens driving with teen passengers
Even more dangerous is having other teenagers in the car. More passengers = increased risk
- Newly licensed teens
The most dangerous time for teenagers is within the first six months after they receive their license
What leads to this increased risk?
Several aspects lead to teens being at a higher risk of being in a fatal car crash. Teens are more likely to:
- Underestimate dangerous situations
- Recognize hazardous situations
- Speed and allow shorter following distances
- Less likely to wear their seat belts
How can these deaths be prevented?
Given freedom to be behind the wheel should be treated as a privilege; however, some teenagers are blinded by the excitement. Luckily, the deaths and injuries caused can continue to go down by working to prevent them. Experts suggest that using comprehensive graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs have helped to reduce 38% and 40% of fatal and injury crashes (respectively) among just 16 year old drivers.
These licensing programs were designed to delay the time that a young driver receives a full license; thus, allowing young drivers to gain experience under low-risk conditions.