Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Every 15 Minutes, Part I: The danger of impaired or distracted teen drivers

By Lori Halvorson

Accidents account for half of the teen age deaths in this country. One-third of those are caused by motor vehicle accidents; the leading cause of accidental deaths. The most recent statistics indicate that a teen driver or passenger is killed or injured in a traffic accident approximately every 15 minutes of every day.

The risk of a teen driver being involved in a fatal traffic incident is highest for the new driver. Lacking experience in conjunction with the risk-taking nature of adolescents has an adverse effect on safe driving behavior. 16 year old drivers have a crash rate nearly 4 times as high as drivers of all ages. It gets better with age, with 19 year old drivers having a crash rate only twice as high as that for drivers of all ages.

When impaired driving is taken into consideration, the trend reverses. As an example, the rate of accidents for drivers who “had been drinking” rises as the age of the driver increases; with 19 year old “HBD” drivers having accident rates twice that of drivers of all ages. The most common cause of fatal collisions for teen drivers is excessive speed, which also accounts for more than half of all citations issued to teen drivers. Perhaps the most concerning facts is drivers who survive a crash are one and a half times more likely to have a second crash than the crash rate of drivers as a whole.

Teen driving accidents are preventable. Irrespective of the natural progression of brain development in adolescents, teen drivers can adopt “minimal risk” driving habits and exercise them when they understand the adverse consequences. It really is worth the time and effort it takes to provide them with the tools and with an understanding of the reality of the dangers, as well as the joy, offered by the independence provided by having a driver’s license.

Amador County has not been immune to the problem and has had more than our share of sadness and heartache. We have several good programs to help address the prevention, as well as the negative consequences of teen driving fatalities. Two that have worked toward a safer driving community in our county are Amador Teen Driver and XX through the local office of the California Highway Patrol.

Part 2 of this article will deal with another local resource coming to our community.

Photo courtesy the Amador Ledger Dispatch

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