It’s a dangerous world out there for teens, and it’s only getting worse due to distracting technologies. Sadly, teen deaths are on the rise across America. Traffic accidents took the lives of 2,333 teenagers ages 16 to 19 in 2015 (the most recent year data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That’s six teens every day. The same year, 235,845 teens had to go to emergency rooms for car accident-related injuries. Here’s what to know about teen deaths as a parent.
What Is Causing Teen Deaths?
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of unintentional injury death to teens in the United States. Yet car accidents aren’t the only cause for alarm in U.S. parents: a recent study from the National Center for Health Statistics found an increase in several different causes of accidental deaths in those 10 to 19 years old. The rate of accidental teen death rose 13% from 2013 to 2016. The following are the most common causes of teen fatalities according to the study:
- Injury-related deaths. Injury- and accident-related deaths remain the most common killer of America’s teenagers.
- Drug overdoses. Drug use has spiked among many age groups in the past five years, including teenagers. Overdoses killed 772 teens in 2015.
- Homicides and suicides. School shootings, bullying, homicides, and suicides have also contributed to the sharp increase in teen death rates.
Road traffic deaths are the leading cause of unintentional injury death in ages 10 to 19 around the world, according to the World Health Organization. Preventing teen-driver car accidents could significantly lower annual teen death statistics.
Why Are Teens More Likely to Get into Car Accidents?
Teenagers are disproportionately more likely to get into serious accidents compared to adults. Although people ages 15 to 19 represent only about 7% of the country’s population, they make up 11% of the total costs of car accident injuries ($10 billion). Why is it that teenagers are so much more prone to auto accidents? The answer to this question could help parents prevent young driver wrecks. The following reasons may all contribute:
- Distracted driving. Teens are serious distracted-driving offenders. Teens are the largest age group reporting distracted driving in fatal accidents. Cell phone use behind the wheel is reaching a frenzy, even with statewide cell phone restrictions while driving. Teenagers should never text, talk, selfie, record videos, or otherwise use hand-held phones behind the wheel. Even a few seconds of distraction can cause a deadly crash.
- Lack of driving experience. Drivers 15 to 19 are getting behind the wheel for the very first time. They lack the experience of adult drivers – experience that may someday help them avoid accidents. Teen drivers may not yet have the reaction times or skill to prevent collisions. This sets teens up for disasters when roadway conditions change or the unexpected happens, such as a child running into the road.
- Peer-pressure fueling bad decisions. Thousands of fatal teen-driver car accidents happen because of peer pressure from friends. Speeding, street racing, aggressive driving, drunk driving, red-light running, texting and driving, and other dangerous practices can all occur when multiple teens are traveling together. Have an adult supervise teen road trips, or a strict rule limiting the number of passengers per vehicle.
What You Can Do
As the parent of a teen driver, the increase in teen deaths on the road may strike fear in your heart. The best thing you can do for your child is to learn what causes these crashes and educate him or her. The more your child knows about the common causes of crashes in Maryland, the easier it will be to avoid them. If it’s too late to prevent your teen from causing or getting into a car accident, seek legal counsel from an attorney.