NEWARK—Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, about 3,500 teens in the U.S. aged 15–19 were killed and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.
“It is tragic when any young person ends up in the Emergency Department with serious or fatal injuries due to a car accident,” says Michael Rosen, MD, pediatric director of the Emergency Department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey.
“The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. They are four times more likely than older drivers to crash. Teens are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations and are more likely to speed and to tailgate.”
Two-thirds of teen occupants killed in crashes are not wearing seat belts, according to the CDC, and speeding is a factor in 40 percent of all teen driver fatalities. The CDC reports that those at especially high risk for motor vehicle crashes are:
• Males: The death rate for male teen drivers is two times that of females.
• Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
• Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teenagers are eligible to drive.
The Emergency Department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and the CDC offer the following tips for parents of teen drivers:
• Set clear rules, boundaries and expectations.
• It is about safety, not control. Make sure they understand rules are for their safety, not to control them. As they become more responsible, introduce new privileges.
• Be responsive. Listen to their concerns.
• Recognize their need to become independent. Reward responsible behavior.
• Let them know you can be counted on for help and support.
• Create a code word. Help teens get out of unsafe situations by calling or texting you with a previously agreed-upon code word that signals trouble. When you hear or see the word, pick them up right away.
• Pay attention. Know where they are going and discuss how they will get there and when they will be home.
• Lead by example. Follow the rules of the road. Wear a seat belt. Don’t talk on a cell phone while driving. Don’t speed. Don’t drink and drive.
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