Hospital Offers Advice On Reducing Teen Driver Errors

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Photo credit: Angela Mueller

NEWARK–In 2008, more than half a million people were involved in car crashes where a teen driver was behind the wheel. Nearly 30 percent of those who died in these crashes were not in cars driven by teens.

Since teenage driving has an impact on all of the drivers on the road, it is important for families to have open discussions with these new drivers and set guidelines for behavior.

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“More teenagers die from car crashes than from cancer, homicide, and suicide combined,” reports Michael Rosen, MD, director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. “Parents should know that the main cause of teen crashes is driver inexperience. All new drivers—even straight-A students—are at risk for a fatal crash.”

In one year alone, crash-related injuries and deaths among teens ages 15 to 19 cost $14 billion in medical care.

The following are teen driving facts and recommendations from The Emergency Department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Most teen crashes involve “rookie” mistakes. Teens need time to gain driving experience under varying road conditions. Make sure that your teen receives at least 50 hours of supervised practice under a wide variety of conditions while learning to drive.
  • Parents play a crucial role in teen driving safety, including peer pressure. You can help by taking the blame – for the rules they have to follow to drive or ride in a car. Sometimes they need an excuse to get out of difficult situations
  • According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), two-thirds of teens killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts. Insist on the use of seatbelts and wear one yourself. Have consequences for not using seatbelts.
  • Two or more peer passengers triples the risk of a fatal crash when a teen is behind the wheel. Parents who set rules and monitor their teens’ driving behavior in a supportive way can cut their crash risk in half. Insist that limits on the number of passengers are followed.
  • According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), crash risk is four times higher when a driver uses a cell phone, whether or not it’s hands-free. Let your teen driver know that using a cell phone while driving is only acceptable in an emergency (and only then, by pulling over).  Be sure to emphasize that texting behind the wheel is never okay.
  • The effects of being awake for 18 hours are similar to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08, which is legally drunk. Do not underestimate the importance of sleep for your teen, especially in regard to driving.
  • Although teens are actually less likely than adults to get behind the wheel after drinking, their risk of crashing is far greater, even with low to moderate blood alcohol content levels. Talk to your teen about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Always offer to pick up your teen from any location without repercussions.
  • Speed is a major factor in teen crash fatalities. As part of driving practice, be sure to cover speed management for various conditions with your teen.

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