teen car crash

Teen Death Rates Decline In States With Strong Graduated Driver License Laws

A 2006 study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that showed Graduated Driver License Laws (GDLs) reduced teen death rates by an average of 11% has been backed up by at least two states that have shown a significant decline in their teen fatality rate after enactment of tough new GDLs.

New Jersey’s strong GDL laws will become even stronger with new GDL regulations as a result of recommendations by the Teen Driver Study Commission. The new laws or regulations are:

  • No plea bargains for GDL holders (teens can’t plea bargain away points for traffic violations). Teens who accumulate 3 or more points, must attend a 4-hour MVC Probationary Driver Program and be monitored for 12 months. Any accumulation of points during the monitoring period will result in a 90 day license suspension.
  • Use of a decal on the vehicle to identify drivers who hold a learner’s permit or provisional license.
  • 11 PM curfew for all drivers under the age of 21 who hold a permit or provisional license.
  • Limit of passengers to just one – regardless of family affiliation.

The Illinois Secretary of State introduced figures that showed a 53% drop in teen deaths between 2007 and the first 9 months of 2009. Illinois sanctions on drivers during the Initial Licensing Phase include:

  • Two moving violation convictions occurring within a 24-month period will result in a minimum one-month driver’s license suspension. Suspension length is determined by the seriousness of the offenses and the driver’s prior driving history. An additional driver’s license suspension will result for each subsequent moving violation following the initial suspension.
  • Any moving violation conviction that occurs within the first year of licensure will result in a six-month extension of the passenger limitation, which allows no more than one unrelated passenger under age 20.
  • Suspended drivers are required to attend a remedial education course, may be retested and must pay a $70 reinstatement fee.

Parents who don’t live in a state with a strong GDL law, can impose their own strict restrictions. If you are not sure what the GDL law is in your state, visit your state’s web site or: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/teenagers/qanda#teenagers–graduated-driver-licensing


Teens Texting More Than Ever

A recently released study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project shows that teens are texting more than ever and, it seems, they prefer texting to phone conversations. The findings don’t bode well for motor vehicle safety groups who are trying to spread the word about the dangers of texting and driving. The greater portion of the increase in texting by teens falls in the age group of those just beginning to drive.

The study’ authors conducted phone interviews in both in English and in Spanish with a “nationally representative sample of 799 teens ages 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in the continental United States” in 2011. They found that texting is the “dominant daily mode of communication between teens and all those with whom they communicate.” Here is some of the information revealed in the study:

  • “Overall, 77% of those ages 12-17 have a cell phone. The percentage of younger teens ages 12 and 13 with cell phones has declined slightly since 2009
  • The frequency of teens’ phone chatter with friends – on cell phones and landlines – has fallen
  • The typical American teen is sending and receiving a greater number of texts than in 2009. Overall, 75% of all teens text.
  • The median number of texts (i.e. the midpoint user in our sample) sent on a typical day by teens 12-17 rose from 50 in 2009 to 60 in 2011.
  • Much of this increase occurred among older teens ages 14-17, who went from a median of 60 texts a day to a median of 100 two years later. Boys of all ages also increased their texting volume from a median of 30 texts daily in 2009 to 50 texts in 2011. Black teens showed an increase of a median of 60 texts per day to 80.
  • Older girls remain the most enthusiastic texters, with a median of 100 texts a day in 2011, compared with 50 for boys the same age.
  • 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives. This far surpasses the frequency with which they pick other forms of daily communication, including phone calling by cell phone (39% do that with others every day), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35%), social network site messaging (29%), instant messaging (22%), talking on landlines (19%) and emailing (6%).
  • The heaviest texters (those who exchange more than 100 texts a day) are much more likely than lighter texters to say that they talk on their cell phone daily. Some 69% of heavy texters talk daily on their cell phones, compared with 46% of medium texters (those exchanging 21-100 texts a day) and 43% of light texters (those exchanging 0-20 texts a day).
  • Some 23% of all those ages 12-17 say they have a smartphone and ownership is highest among older teens: 31% of those ages 14-17 have a smartphone, compared with just 8% of youth ages 12-13. There are no differences in ownership of smartphones versus regular cell phones by race.”
driving too fast for conditions

Managing Speed: Tips for Teen Drivers

A 2009 analysis of speeding-related crashes by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that following the speed limit is not enough to prevent a crash when conditions warrant a reduction in speed. The study showed that in speeding-related crashes that caused one or more injuries, 26% of the crashes were contributed to be exceeding the posted speed limit, while 74% were due to driving too fast for conditions. In property-damage-only crashes where speed was a contributing factor, 18% of the crashes were due to exceeding the posted speed limit and 82% of the crashes were contributed to by driving too fast for conditions.

Drivers should reduce their speed:

  • immediately when it begins to rain and when driving through standing water. Roads become very slippery just after the rain begins, because the rainwater mixes with oil on the road that has been dropped from passing vehicles. Driving too fast on wet roads can result in skidding, when the vehicle loses traction with the road and the driver loses control of the vehicle. Never drive through standing water if you do not know how deep it is.
  • in foggy or smoky conditions. Fog and smoke make it difficult to see ahead, and reducing speed reduces stopping distance.
  • before a curve. Too often, drivers realize that they are moving too fast when they are already in the curve, but lowering speed in a curve results in a loss of traction that could cause a skid. Always reduce speed before entering the curve.
  • in construction zones. Lower speed limits are usually posted in construction zones, but the new speed limit may not be low enough, especially for new drivers. The distraction of all the activity in the work zone and changes in the road surface can cause more difficulties for drivers who are inexperienced.
  • around school zones and playgrounds. Children are often present when the lowered speed limits are not in effect. Children are unpredictable and may walk, skate or bike into the road without checking for traffic. Be extra careful around school zones!
  • at night. Visibility is reduced at night; street lights and the vehicle’s headlights cannot entirely make up for this.
Survivor's Guilt

Survivor’s Guilt: Teens in Motor Vehicle Crashes

A single car crash in North Carolina last month led to the death of the driver’s twin sister.

Another news report from the past month regarding a teen who had been killed in a single vehicle car crash the teen’s girl friend was quoted as saying:

“Cameron was drinking and we got into a fight. I told him to find another ride home. I said, ‘Get out of this car, you’re being disrespectful,'” Talia said, gasping between tears and raising her arms to the sky. “Why didn’t I drive him home?”

Survivor’s guilt, which is most often associated with victims of combat, can occur in anyone who has survived any type of trauma whether they were directly involved or not. The guilt from wishing they had done something different that may have averted the event can lead to long-lasting psychological problems. The most common form of psychological trauma resulting from survivor’s guilt is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can result in life-long, debilitating problems for the victim. This is why high schools, who experience the death of one of their students, make extra counselors available to the student body immediately after the event.

If your teen has been involved in a crash in which someone died or was horribly injured or even if they were weren’t involved but were closely associated with the victim, you will need to help them through the grief process and you should be on the lookout for the warning signs of PTSD.

Grief – The grief process is something everyone who has experienced the loss of a friend or loved one must go through and it occurs in specific stages;

  1. Denial and Isolation.
  2. Anger.
  3. Bargaining.
  4. Depression.
  5. Acceptance.

Guiding your teen through all of the stages to acceptance, can be a long and painful process. If the guilt is left unresolved, it can lead to a multitude of psychological issues.

Don’t try to tell your teen how they should act or feel – No one can truly understand how a grieving person feels and trying to tell them their emotions are wrong or unhealthy can only compound the problem. Instead, sympathize and let him or her vent their feelings. Holding in or suppressing one’s feelings can be harmful.

Suggest that they express their grief in a creative way – One example of a creative expression of grief is the Facebook page mentioned in the first article of this newsletter. Writing a song or a poem, creating a memorial to the victim are all positive expressions of grief. Getting involved in programs to prevent future tragedies can give your teen some sense of control over events.

Watch for signs that your teen may be “numbing out”
– One common expression of grief is to try to suppress the feelings by turning to alcohol or drugs. This is an especially dangerous form of expression and can only make matters worse.

Withdrawing from friends and events – Your teen my stop engaging in their usual activities or back away from friendships. This part of the denial and isolation stage is designed to prevent any future relationships and thus, the chance of losing someone else that may be close to them. To make up for the lack of relationships, your teen may turn to alcohol or drugs or withdraw into video games. Their school performance may suffer.

Grief Triggers – There will be times when reminders of the loss of their friend will be especially acute; such as anniversaries of the event, birthdays, school proms, graduation. Be aware of these triggers and be prepared to help your teen through the grief process all over again.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk – Trying to put the past behind you by ignoring the fact that the event happened won’t make it go away. Talking through the issues is the best form of grief expression. Be there for your teen, allow them to talk it out and listen without judging.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling – Unresolved, PTSD can lead to severe depression, paranoia, isolation, and drug dependence. If left unresolved, these issues can affect future generations. Be on the lookout for warning signs and understand that the issues may be too big for you to handle. Seek professional psychological help.

teens keys to car

Study Shows Teens with Their Own Car Have More Crashes

Two studies published in 2009 showed that teens who had to share a car and whose parents who were involved in their driving in a supportive way were far less likely to be involved in a crash or to engage in risky driving behaviors.

The studies, conducted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm Insurance, were published in the October 2009 issue of Pediatrics. According to a news release by State Farm Insurance, the studies were based on a National Young Driver Survey of more than 5,500 teenagers in grades 9 through 11.

The first study showed that “teens who said their parents set clear rules, paid attention to where they were going and whom they were with, and did so in a supportive way were:

  • half as likely to crash
  • twice as likely to wear seat belts
  • 71 percent less likely to drive while intoxicated
  • 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving

These findings are compared to teens who said their parents were less involved.”

The second study looked at teens who either owned their own car or had easy, unrestricted access to a car were twice as likely to be involved in a crash. The study showed that almost 75% of teen drivers owned or had unrestricted access to a car. 25% of teens who were the main driver of a car reported having been involved in a collision compared to just 10% of those who had to borrow a car.

On a basic level it makes sense; a teen that has to borrow a car faces the wrath of the owner if that car is damaged or destroyed. Teens who own their own car don’t feel that sense of responsibility to protect someone else’s property from harm.

These studies show the critical importance of parental involvement in a teen’s driving environment and add to data that shows Graduated Drivers Licenses for teens work to create a safer driving environment for teens.

Car crashes are the main cause of death for teenagers in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teens are involved in three times as many fatal traffic crashes as all other drivers.

NHTSA figures for 2009 show:

  • Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds.
  • 5,148 15- to 20-year-old drivers were involved in fatal crashes.
  • 2,336 15- to 20-year-old drivers were killed.
  • 196,000 15- to 20-year-olds were injured in motor vehicle crashes.
  • 15 to 20 year old drivers make up 6.4% of the licensed drivers in the US but they account for 11% of the fatal crashes.

Many parents, especially in those households where both parents work, look forward to the day when they no longer have to transport their teen to various activities. However parents should strongly resist the urge to buy a car for the sole use of the teen; at least for the first year. According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) the most dangerous time for teens is the first year after receiving their driver’s license. The IIHS states that “the crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16 year-olds as it is for 18-19 year-olds.”

“Our data show that one of the safest decisions families can make is for parents to control access to the keys for at least the first 6 to 12 months after a teen gets his license,” says Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD, study co-author and scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP. “Our data show an alarming trend – almost three-quarters of teens have easy access to a car. Compared to teens that have to share a car, these teens are twice as likely to crash and more likely to speed and to use a cell phone while driving. When teens have to ask for the keys before taking the car, it naturally creates the opportunity for parents to have conversations with their teens about where they are going, who they will be with, and to review the house rules about driving with passengers, wearing seat belts, using cell phones, and which routes are safe.”

A dialogue should be started with the teen before they receive their learner’s license and an effective tool for setting up those rules and boundaries is the Parent-Teen Driving Contract. When parents and teens both agree on what the rules should be, the teen is more likely to take ownership of that decision.