It’s summer and, if you have teenage children you are more than likely going to at least hear stories about injury and fatality on the roads involving their friends and acquaintances. And these stories may involve the most unlikely kids: one day it’s diplomas, accolades and a bright post-secondary future; then it’s the ICU, comas, and rehab programs… or funerals.
In the US, an average of 5,000 teens die every year in car crashes—an average of 14 teenage lives lost every day. Although overall Canadian driver fatality statistics are better than the US, Canadian teenagers are in the highest risk age category. This makes car crashes the number one killer of teens in North America.
Speeding and driver errorscause most of these fatal crashes—speeding causing close to 40%. In surveys, 87% of teens admit to speeding. In 2004, more than 2,500 teens were in fatal crashes because of failing to yield or veering out of their lanes. 40% of teenage drivers who are killed in crashes have been drinking alcohol. Although young people are the least likely to drink and drive, the ones who do are at a very high risk of collision. Of all the young drinking drivers who are killed or seriously injured, the smallest number are 16 year-olds, the largest 19 year-olds.
Twice as many teenage boys die in crashes as teenage girls. Teenage boys account for 87% of the young fatally injured drinking drivers and 89% of the seriously injured drinking drivers. Almost 25% of teenage boys say they speed because it’s "fun." Adding just one teenage male passenger to a car doubles the risk of a crash. 44% of teens acknowledge they drive more safely without friends in the car.
Reportedly, 56% of teens talk on their cell phones while driving, and 13% read or write text messages. 66% of teens who die in car crashes were not wearing seatbelts. The deadliest days for teen crashes are New Year’s Eve, and the 100 days between Victoria/Memorial Day—the late May holiday commonly marking the beginning of summer—and Labor Day—the first September weekend marking the end of summer. A large percentage of young drinking drivers die or are seriously injured on weekends. The riskiest time of day is between 9 pm and midnight.
These statistics come from two sources. One is www.keepthedrive.com, the website of a teen-to-teen movement in the US dedicated to encouraging teens to drive “smart” by creating a conversation about the issue, letting teens themselves “call the shots and search for [their] own solutions….real teens, real stories, real solutions.” The other is www.madd.ca, the Canadian website of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The causes of teen crashes beg the solutions: keep passengers to a minimum; don’t drink or do drugs and don’t ride with an impaired driver; don’t speed; don’t text or talk on the cell or fiddle with ipods or MP3 players while driving. But the kids know these things. Knowledge is one thing, and acting upon knowledge is something else. Keep repeating these rules to your children.