By Kambria Nguyen, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of unintentional injuries in adolescents age 15-19. These accidents account for 36 percent of all deaths in this age group ― Six teens die every day due to motor vehicle accidents. Summer months have the highest rates of teen fatalities throughout the year, but it’s not just teen drivers who are at risk; teen passengers are also at increased risk.
There are many factors unique to teens that put them at increased risk of having an accident:
- Teens are inexperienced drivers and may not be able to recognize dangerous situations.
- Teens are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as speeding and leaving little room between themselves and the car in front of them (known as headway).
- Teens have the lowest rates of seat belt use.
- 40 percent of teens report texting while driving.
- The risk of being in an accident increases with the number of teen passengers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly one-third of traffic-related deaths occurred due to an alcohol-impaired driving crash. However, drugged driving is on the rise. A recent study found that the number of people killed in crashes where drugs were present surpassed the number killed in crashes where only alcohol was detected.
In 2014, the most recent data available, 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. More than half were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
Safe Driving Tips for Teens
- Always wear your seatbelts.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Never drink and drive. Never get into a car with someone who had a drink. Make sure you have a designated driver or someone you can call if you are stuck.
- Whether it be alcohol, marijuana or recreational drugs, impaired driving of any kind can be deadly.
- Remember that your texts can wait. Distracted driving is dangerous.
How can you help your teen be a safe driver? Keep in mind the following tips to support your teen and their safe driving habits:
- Before teens drive alone, supervise them driving during different times of the day and in different weather conditions.
- Lead by example. Wear your seatbelt and do not text and drive.
- Stress the importance of a good night’s rest as drowsy driving leads to accidents.
- Prohibit teen passengers for the first year your teen is licensed. In California, you cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or transport passengers under 20 years old, unless accompanied by a California-licensed, parent or guardian, driver 25 years or older, or a driving instructor.
- Talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol. Discuss the dangers of impaired driving and distracted driving.
- Sign a parent-teen driving agreement. The CDC has a template, or you can make your own.
- Meet Dr. Alexandra Roche, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, who was recently named a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.
- At the CHOC Children’s Adolescent Medicine Clinic, you will encounter a dedicated team of specialists whose focus is on comprehensive care.
- Vaccines aren’t just important for babies. Teens need to be vaccinated too! Parents should be aware of vaccines updated that will benefit their adolescents.