Inexperience, distraction cause of most teen-driver car accidents

Posted By Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge || Apr 29, 2011

Teenagers -- especially those who just got their driver's license -- have an increased risk of getting into a motor vehicle accident. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, with more than 3,000 teenagers dying a year in car accidents, it's the No. 1 killer of teens.

A new study by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that most car accidents involving teen drivers were caused by inexperience and distraction as opposed to reckless driving or alcohol. The information could help parents, law enforcement and advocacy groups address the real causes of motor vehicle wrecks that injure teens and put other drivers at risk.

"This study shows the vast majority of crashes occur not because the teen drivers are behaving badly, but because they have not yet developed the crucial skills they need,'' said Allison Curry, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, one of the study researchers.

The study looked at nearly 800 car accidents involving teen drivers in a nationally representative federal database. The research was sponsored by State Farm Insurance Companies and is published in the April 11 edition of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Lack of scanning, conditional speeding, driver distraction are the main reasons teen drivers get into car accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among people aged 13-19. In 2008, more than 600,000 teens were injured in car accidents, and more than 4,000 died.

The researchers found that 76 percent of the car accidents studied were caused by a critical driving error. For example, a teen driver who did not "scan" traffic sufficiently when making a left turn could be hit by oncoming traffic.

Three common errors were responsible for nearly half of the accidents studied:

  • Failure to "scan" the driving environment sufficiently
  • Driving too fast for road conditions, even when not exceeding the speed limit
  • Driver distraction, such as cell phone use or texting while driving, disruptive passengers, or fixation on something outside the car

Luckily, these types of errors can be corrected with better driver training. Curry recommends parents take action by:

  • Teaching teen drivers to scan the traffic environment more thoroughly
  • Reducing driver distraction by restricting the use of electronic devices while driving and by limiting the number of teenage passengers allowed in the car
  • Training teen drivers on how to manage speed for road conditions, not just to obey the speed limit

"The study really points to specific skills that parents can work on with their teens when teaching them how to drive," Curry said.

Overall, the research ''breaks the myth that crashes occur due only to aggressive driving," she concluded.

Categories: Car Accidents
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