Motor vehicle crashes have long been one of the primary causes of death and injuries among teen drivers. But a new study by AAA finds that young motorists are also a danger to everyone else on the road.
In all, nearly 3,000 people were killed in teen crashes in 2013, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, with nearly 400,000 injured. But a new AAA study finds that nearly two-thirds of the people injured or killed during a crash are people other than the teen behind the wheel.
“Teen crash rates are higher than any other age group, and this data confirms that the impact of their crashes extends well beyond the teen who is behind the wheel,” notes Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The release of the new study coincides with the start of what safety experts have dubbed “The 100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial and Labor Day when young drivers are out of school, driving more, and more likely to have a motor vehicle accident.
“Teen crash rates are higher than any other age group, and this data confirms that the impact of their crashes extends well beyond the teen who is behind the wheel.”
Experts blame the high number of teen crashes on a variety of factors, including the lack of experience behind the wheel and youthful exuberance. But distracted driving has become another major cause. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that distracted driving is responsible for about 11 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. But a separate study by the AAA Foundation concluded that it is the cause of nearly six out of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes.
While cellphones and texting often get the blame, less high-tech distractions also can play a factor, according to AAA research.
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The safety group said that each person who rides along with a 16- or 17-year-old driver is likely to lead to an “exponential” increase in the risk of a crash. Add one passenger under 21 and the risk of being killed jumps 44 percent. With two, it doubles, and it quadruples if there are three or more passengers onboard under 21. That is a major reason why a number of states now issue graduated, first-time licenses that restrict the number of youths that a teen driver can travel with.
The news isn’t entirely bad. The latest AAA teen driving study notes that there has been a 51 percent drop in non-fatal injury crashes involving teen drivers over the last 20 years, with fatal crashes plunging 56 percent. That’s a significantly steeper decline than the overall plunge in highway injuries and fatalities over the past two decade.