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Driving, Teens & Crashes

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

 

With spring here and more parties and events for teens to attend, a sobering study has taken a look at what happens in the final moments before teens crash their cars.

The study, from State Farm Insurance and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), appeared in Accident Analysis and Prevention. Car crashes remain the first cause of death among teens (16-19) in the United States, and teenage drivers are four times as likely as adults to be involved in fatal car accidents.  State Farm and CHOP hope that by studying errors that teens make before they crash will allow driver’s education programs to target specific problems in order to reduce these critical errors.  

The study found that there were three common errors that accounted for over half of the crashes.  21% occurred because teens failed to scan the road, and therefore could not detect a hazard in front of them.  Another 21% of the crashes happened when the teen speeded, especially on hazard road conditions—like taking a turn too quickly.  And another 20% occurred because the teens were distracted: by something inside the car or outside of the car.

Inexperience 

“The overall theme of inexperience is evident in many teen crashes,” said David Raposa, the Director of Public Affairs at AAA Southern New England, based in Providence. Raposa added that this inexperience manifests itself in physical mistakes, like driving too fast, rolling through stop signs, and failing to leave space with the car in front of you.   

Scanning the road is a big problem for teens, according to Raposa. “Many do not scan far enough ahead or to the sides,” he said, and cited distractions, including "friends, cell phones, texting, music, grooming, and eating.”  

Looking hard at teen driving

The study examined a federal database of over 800 car crashes involving teen drivers, and then identified some common “critical errors” right before the crash. Seventy-five percent of the car crashes examined in the study were due to a driving error on the part of the teen.    

The study concluded that external conditions—like hazardous weather or vehicle malfunction, were not really a factor.  Physical impairment, like drowsy driving, did not factor either.  Neither did aggressive driving—dispelling the myth that teen crashes resulted from thrill seeking. 

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