Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teenage Drivers

I try to post frequently about teens and when they learn to drive. It can be one of the scarest times to be a parents. Recently, one of my favorite websites, Tangerine Times, posted an article on Teenage Drivers. Read on:

With the recent acquisition of the “beginner’s permit”, our 15 year old is now driving. I’m trying to provide plenty of driving time behind the wheel because familiarity with the vehicle is my first goal. So many driving incidents require the immediate reaction of the driver. As a driver, you need to respond automatically, without thinking. I’ve been driving so many years (we won’t get into THAT number) I could close my eyes and turn the wheel in the correct direction if I was given verbal commands.

Yesterday, in fact, I had a near miss with a Smart car driven by a teenager. He whipped in front of me (there were 2 lanes - I was in the left) from a side street then slammed on the brakes and turned on his left turn signal - just 100 yards from where he entered the street. I didn’t even think, I reacted and thankfully the drivers around me were watching, saw what was happening, and moved out of the way so I could swerve into the other lane slightly. I slammed on my brakes but would have rear-ended him handily if not for everyones’ co-operation. I was inches from making that Smart car into Oreo cookie - ( I drive a van).
So lately, I’ve been a little more attentive to articles about new drivers. And when I read a recent article from AAA that said, “teen drivers kill others more than they kill themselves.” I thought, ok…can we take out the word KILL??? According to the article, AAA analyzed the crash data collected over the last decade by it’s Foundation for Traffic Safety and found that while deadly crashes are down overall, teenage drivers are still at least twice as lethal to other people as they are to themselves.

The analysis shows that about one-third of people killed in crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 17 are teen drivers themselves. Nearly two-thirds are passengers, occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. “For every teen driver killed in a crash, almost twice as many other people die, which underscores the link between teen drier safety and the safety of everyone on the road,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbeinet.

Nationally, between 1998 and 2007, crashes involving 15, 16 and 17-year old drivers killed 28,138 people of whom (36%) were teen drivers themselves. The remaining 17,750 (63%) deaths included 8,829 passengers of the drivers. AAA believes the slight drop is significant and points to it as evidence that improved teen licensing systems, especially the graduated driver licensing program, has made an impact.

Graduated Drivers License Programs Seem to Work
States with comprehensive Graduated Drivers License systems, overall, have been shown to reduce deaths among 16-year-old drivers by 38%.
Choice of Vehicle

Because most young people don’t usually have much money, they often drive older cars that don’t have the latest safety equipment — airbags, ABS, traction control and the like.

Second, because their vehicles are older, they may have more service issues that compromise their safety, such as worn brakes, tired shocks, bald tires, and so on.

Lastly, to save money, young people often choose economy boxes and small pickups, which have smaller crumple zones and fewer safety features.

Too many passengers

This last point is frequently overlooked, but has drawn attention recently. In a new study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, researchers discovered that the risk of deadly accidents among young drivers rose sharply with each additional passenger. The study, which looked at the driving habits of 16- and 17-year-old drivers, revealed a strong correlation between the number of passengers in a car and the risk of a fatal wreck.

For example, a 16 year old with three or more passengers faces nearly three times the risk of a fatal wreck as one driving alone. The study also found that young drivers are much more likely to engage in dangerous activates — drinking or using drugs, speeding, swerving, running red lights — when they are carrying their friends as passengers in the car. In California, we have a law that prevents other teenagers from riding in the cars with first time drivers (for the first year of their license).

Now…if we can only figure out a way to sit in the passenger seat while your teenage child is driving and NOT tense up. That would be a good trick. I can’t say I enjoy the experience as much as I thought I would.

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