According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes continue to be the leading cause of teen deaths throughout the nation and in Kentucky. In 2017, 3,255 teens between the ages of 15 and 17 were involved in fatal car accidents. 2,526 died in one of those accidents. If you have a teen driver, you may wish to know what you can do to keep your adolescent safe when he or she is behind the wheel. As with anything, knowledge is power, and the best way you can protect your teen is by striving to better understand why teen crashes occur in the first place.

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of crashes for any age group. However, teens are more susceptible to this danger, as many fail to fully recognize the consequences of driving while distracted. According to the NHTSA, one in three teens admits to texting and driving. Though a common practice, it is not an innocent one. Research suggests that simply dialing the phone while driving increases a person’s risk for crashing by six times, while texting while driving increases a person’s crash risk by 23 times. This is due to the fact that distracted driving takes teens’ attention away from the road and reduces their ability to react to incidences, roadway hazards or inclement weather in a sufficient fashion.

Passengers also pose a risk to teen drivers. According to findings, teen drivers are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors when driving with teen peers, compared to those who drive alone. That likelihood increases to three times when a teen driver transports multiple teen passengers.

Speeding played a factor in 32% of fatal crashes involving teenagers. Between 2000 and 2011, nearly 20,000 speeding-related crashes involved teen drivers.

Lack of seat belts is a serious issue among teen drivers. Findings from a 2016 study revealed that the majority of teens who died in car crashes that year lacked the proper safety restraints. The study examined the death of 818 teen drivers and 569 passengers of vehicles driven by a teen driver and concluded that 58% of those passengers were not wearing their seat belts at the time of collision.

Alcohol and drugs also play a major role in teen driving accidents and fatalities. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, teens are more likely to die in alcohol-related accidents than individuals of any other age group. Data from 2016 reveals that one in five teens involved in a fatal car accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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