Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among American teenagers. In Tennessee, 15 percent of 16 and 17-year-old drivers who are involved in motor vehicle accidents end up dying from their injuries. This fatality rate is the 12th highest in the nation.
There are a number of factors that lead to Tennessee’s high rate of teen driving deaths, including dangerous country roads and a relatively low number of trauma centers. However, the biggest risk comes from teens’ own behavior.
Tennessee has laws in place that are designed to protect teens against the risks that come along with being an inexperienced driver. Chief among them is a restriction on how many passengers teen drivers are allowed to transport.
Unfortunately, many teens choose not to follow this law, often with disastrous consequences. Dr. Tom Abramo, the chief pediatric emergency physician at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt recently told The Tennessean that most of the accidents he sees involve a number of teens riding in the same vehicle. He said it’s rare to see serious accidents involving teens who are driving alone.
Teens who travel in large groups are at a higher risk for dangerous driving behaviors including distracted driving, drunk driving, not wearing seatbelts and speeding.
Preventing Teen Driving Deaths
If teens are going to become safer drivers, they need to understand the dangers that come along with engaging in risky behavior. All the laws in the world won’t make a difference unless teens choose to follow them.
For example, even though seat belts are mandatory, nearly half of all teen accident victims weren’t wearing them.
A number of organizations, including the Vanderbilt children’s hospital and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are waging campaigns to educate teens about the potential consequences of risky driving behaviors. However, the best education always starts at home. If you have a teen driver in your house, make sure they understand what is allowed and what is not.
Source: The Tennessean, “TN’s Teen Drivers Pay Price for Inexperience,” Tom Wilemon, April 24, 2012.