Study links most teen crashes to driver error

Most teen car accidents are attributable to inexperience and distraction rather than recklessness or alcohol, according to a recently published study in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death among 13 to 19 year olds in the country according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2008, car accidents killed over 4,000 teens and injured 600,000 others. One encouraging finding of the teen driving study is that many of these accidents can be prevented in the future.

"This study shows the vast majority of crashes occur not because the teen drivers are behaving badly, but because they have not yet developed the crucial skills they need,'' one of the researchers said.

The researchers looked at nearly 600 serious car accidents involving teens. The study found that three common errors were attributable to nearly half of all of the crashes:

  • Failing to scan the road. Teen drivers should strive to be more aware of the environment around their cars. This includes looking for road hazards and the location of other drivers.
  • Distractions. The use of mobile devices such as smartphones should be limited. Texting or browsing the internet while driving can easily contribute to a car accident. The presence of other passengers in a vehicle can also be distracting to drivers.
  • Speed. Teens should work on speed control. Obeying the speed limits is sometimes not enough. Teens should also learn to drive the appropriate speed for road conditions, traffic and weather. Driving the speed limit may not be appropriate when roads are crowded, slick or winding.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Driver Errors Explain Most Teen Crashes, Experts Say," Kathleen Doheny, 4/12/11

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