Graduate to safety
It may not surprise you to learn the most likely cause of death in today’s world for someone between the ages of 13 and 19 is a motor vehicle crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Although teenagers are physically healthier than their older counterparts and are less likely to die from disease, good physical health is usually worthless in fighting the injuries sustained from serious traffic crashes. While teens drive fewer miles than other drivers, they’re involved in more crashes than any other age group.
Why? Immaturity and a lack of driving experience are considered the main reasons. Compared with older drivers, teenagers as a group are more willing to take risks and less likely to use safety belts. They’re also more likely than older drivers to underestimate the dangers associated with hazardous situations and less able to cope with such dangers.
What can be done? Formal evaluations of U.S. high school driver education programs indicate they have little or no effect in reducing crashes. Also, offering driver education in schools has the unintended effect of encouraging early licensure among 16 and 17 year olds.
State laws that limit teenagers’ driving exposure are considered by any to be most effective. For example, nighttime curfews for beginning drivers and higher age requirements for initial licensing. In 24 U.S. states, graduated licensing systems are in place to provide beginning drivers with an opportunity to drive under conditions that minimize risk. They are also in force in New Zealand, where it’s been shown teen crashes have been reduced as a result.
The excitement of teenage years is enhanced by the freedom that accompanies a driver’s license. But with that freedom comes increased risk. It’s become obvious that trading a little bit of that freedom for a significant reduction of that risk is one of the best deals we can make.