Nationwide, car crashes are the leading cause of death for youngsters aged ten through eighteen. A study released Monday showed that riding unbuckled with new teen drivers on high-speed roads created the worst case scenario. Other dangerous circumstances include teen drivers who had been drinking alcohol, male teen drivers and driving on weekends, according to the study by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

teensandcars.jpgThe message for parents is simple – don’t let your teen ride with a teen driver who has less than a year’s experience driving. Insist on seat belts. And practice ways teens can resist peer pressure to ride with other teens, said Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the study’s lead author. The national study covered six years and focused on nearly 10,000 child passengers who were killed in car crashes. More than half — 54 percent — were riding with a teen driver. Not surprisingly, drivers younger than 16 were the most dangerous.
Also, more than three-quarters of the fatal crashes occurred on roads with speed limits higher than 45 mph, and nearly two-thirds of the young passengers were not wearing seat belts, researchers found.
Key findings about the teen experience in cars shows:

  • 75 percent of teens see peers driving fatigued
  • 90 percent see passenger behavior that distracts the driver
  • 20 percent of 11th graders report being in a crash as a driver in the past year

The survey also revealed the important role that the teens see for their parents:

  • 66 percent say that they care about their parents’ opinion on cell phone use while driving
  • 56 percent of them rely on parents to learn how to drive
  • 39 percent of their parents provide total financial responsibility for their driving

In Colorado, last year 43 teens were killed in motor-vehicle crashes, a 34 percent drop from 2006, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Colorado teen motor-vehicle deaths are down 60 percent from a high of 107 in 2002. Officials credit numerous factors for the decline in teen-driving deaths, including the passing and subsequent strengthening of Colorado’s Graduated Drivers Licensing laws, safe-driving education programs for teens and parents, as well as enforcement of seat-belt laws.
The number of Colorado teens killed in car crashes has dropped by more than a third, but deaths could be even lower if more teenagers buckled up and authorities are concerned about teenagers consistently ranking among those least likely to buckle up. Of the 43 teens drivers and passengers killed in Colorado last year, 27, or 63 percent, were not wearing seat belts.
When teens worry about losing their licenses or loss of freedom from driving, that seems to prompt safe conduct rather than the risk of a deadly accident. Drivers under 18 can be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt. Anyone in a car driven by a motorist under 18 must wear a seat belt, according to Colorado law. For each person not buckled up, the teen driver faces two points against his or her license and can lose the license after only six points.

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