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For teen drivers, distractions aren’t always electronic, p2

The Memorial Day weekend is over, but the deadliest time of year for teenagers is just beginning. More teens are involved in car accidents between Memorial Day and Labor Day than at any other time of the year. Teens may have more time on their hands, they may have longer daylight hours to take advantage of — a number of factors likely contribute to the increased risk. In Albany, teens may just be anxious to leave the house after a long winter.

Data from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles shows that fatal crashes involving drivers between 16 and 20 years old accounted for 11 percent of all fatal accidents during 2011. For fatal accidents and accidents with injuries, the data shows that teen drivers and older drivers make the same mistakes behind the wheel. What is troubling is that teens are more likely to make those mistakes than more mature drivers — even driving while intoxicated.

The most pervasive of what the DMV terms contributing human factors is driver inattention and distraction. Again, in accidents with injuries or fatalities in 2011, about 12 percent were attributed to inattention for older drivers and more than 15 percent for teen drivers. The data also shows that passengers are more likely to be injured or killed in an accident if a teenager is driving — more than four times as likely.

Passengers are a considerable distraction with teen drivers. The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center recently released the results of a study on the subject. The researchers looked at situations that found a teen driver taking evasive action to avoid an accident. With loud conversations in the car, for example, a teen driver was six times more likely to take such action. Horseplay in the vehicle related to three times the risk.

Many states’ graduated driver’s license laws, including New York’s, limit teen drivers to one passenger under age 20. Safety advocates recommend that families and peers reinforce the rule by establishing — and enforcing — “house rules” as well.

Sources: 

CNN, “Parents, beware: These are the 100 deadliest days for teens,” Kelly Wallace, May 23, 2014

Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, “New York State Fact Sheet: Crashes Involving Young Drivers Ages 16-20,” December 2012

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