Last week served as a grim reminder of the dangers faced by teen drivers. Three car crashes claimed the lives of 15 teenagers, including four Chicago-area teens whose vehicle went into a creek on Tuesday morning. The Illinois car accident was joined by a fatal wreck in Ohio and another in Texas, each involving young drivers and multiple teen passengers. Following the report from the National Safety Council indicating that teen highway deaths rose sharply last year, this latest round of tragedies may increase calls for stricter standards for new drivers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track statistics regarding auto accidents, including those involving teenaged drivers. In 2010, kids between the ages of 16 and 19 suffered car accidents that lead to 282,000 being treated for injuries. There were roughly 2,700 highway fatalities in that age group. The fatality risk for drivers between 16 and 19 is 300 percent that of older drivers. The National Center for Health Statistics indicates that car accidents are the leading cause of death for the age group of 15 to 20.
The accidents last week demonstrated several of the factors that contribute to high fatality rates among teens. Six teens were killed in the Ohio accident. There were 8 teenagers in the vehicle, which was only designed to carry 5. None of the teenagers killed had a seat belt on. All of the accidents involved teen drivers with multiple passengers. Teens driving with other teens in the car is a known risk factor. Many states have included passenger restrictions as part of the graduated licensing laws governing new drivers.
Source: CNN, “Fatal wrecks underscore risks for young drivers,” by Tom Watkins, 13 March 2013