Most teens are excited to get their first chance to drive a car, but unfortunately that excitement all too often turns into tragedy. Car crashes are the number one cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 20. Even crashes that do not end in a fatality can leave bones broken, cars totaled, and high insurance premiums.
Arizona is the tenth worst state for teen drivers, according to one study. The state ranks 23rd in teen driver fatalities and 45th in distracted driving and texting-while-driving laws. It ranks 35th in overall safety.
In an effort to bring attention to this urgent problem and help teens to respect the risks of driving an automobile, January has been declared National Teen Driving Awareness Month. This is an especially important month for Arizona teens. The facts and figures on teen driving can be sobering, but we can do better.
Teens share many of the same risks as adults, but with teens the risk factors are increased. Other situations apply to teens alone, or nearly alone. It is important to think about all the factors teens face when they get behind the wheel of a car. Many of them have to do with distractions.
There is a good reason why so many states have laws in place to prohibit texting and driving. In Arizona, those under 18 may not text while driving, and some cities, like Phoenix and Tucson, prohibit it altogether.
Talking on the phone
Though not illegal, talking on a phone while driving can still be a distraction and is therefore not a safe practice.
Talking with passengers
A driver needs to concentrate. Talking with passengers can be just as distracting as a cellphone.
Navigating the GPS
This is especially important for teens, who have little experience driving and may not know where they are going. GPS is handy, but don’t let it become a distraction.
Searching for music
Music itself can be a distraction, but if you take your eyes off the road it can be even worse.
Texting is a danger, but taking pictures with your phone while you drive is equally as dangerous.
Driving is not the time to update your social media. Wait until you get where you are going to tell your friends and family about your day.
- The distractions which cause so many accidents with teenage drivers can be compounded by other factors, many of which teens are especially prone to.
This is a big problem for younger drivers. While the basics are not hard, driving has a lot of nuance to it, and inexperienced drivers need to grow accustomed to the process. It only takes one oversight to cause an accident.
Speed limits are not “good suggestions,” they are the law for a reason. Speeding was a factor in 285 traffic deaths in 2017 alone.
Driving isn’t the only new experience many teens have. Drinking impairs your ability to react and drive precisely, making you a danger to yourself and everyone else. A large percentage of teens who cause fatal accidents have blood alcohol levels above .08.
Driving in poor lighting conditions is a risk factor for everyone. Poor visibility despite headlights and reflective surfaces is one factor, but nighttime is also when more people tend to drive under the influence.
When a teen is speeding, talking with fellow passengers becomes an even greater danger. Combine speeding with drinking and texting and the danger magnifies yet again. Cutting down on these risk factors and avoiding the combination of risk factors, is an important goal that we should always remember, not just during Teen Driving Awareness Month.
There are some common-sense ways to cut back on the accidents and save more lives on our streets and highways. For instance:
Graduated driver licensing programs
It never hurts to get a little more practice before driving on your own.
Obey the speed limits
Not only will it make the driving easier, it will put you at the same velocity as everyone else, which will reduce the amount of accidents.
Wear a seatbelt
This may not help prevent the accident, but it may very well save your life or prevent a serious injury.
Do not use the cellphone
Your call or text can wait. If it is necessary to make a call, pull over and put it in park.
Keep both hands on the wheel
This gives you greater control over your car and can reduce your likelihood of chatting with passengers and/or taking your eyes off the road.
Pick a less-trafficked area with good visibility and get better at the craft of driving.
Consider a curfew
Your teen simply may not have the experience and awareness to drive at night. When the sun goes down, it might be a good idea not to put your keys in your teenager’s hands.
Arizona Crash Statistics
The facts of vehicular accidents in Arizona are sobering. In 2017 alone, there were 127,064 accidents, in which exactly 1,000 people were killed and another 55,474 were injured. Three hundred and twenty of those deaths were alcohol-related. Unsurprisingly, Fridays saw the most accidents and the most fatal accidents, with evenings and early night being the primary times when these accidents occurred.
The economic loss from these accidents, to say nothing of the emotional loss, is staggering. Property damage alone from automobile accidents in Arizona equaled $335 million, but it is dwarfed by the human cost. Injuries accounted for $4.6 billion dollars of economic loss, while fatalities amounted to $5.8 billion. The fact that so much of this is preventable makes a month like January, where we reflect on the danger and what we can do to be safer, a very important month for all Americans.
We Can Do Better
Even small improvements to these numbers would leave us all better off. Lives could be saved, property damage avoided and insurance premiums could start to come down. Following these simple guidelines could quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Talk to your teen today about the dangers of driving and what they can do about it.
And don’t forget that it’s not just teens who get into accidents. Adults can suffer the same outcomes as teens and often for many of the same reasons, distracted driving primary among them. April will be National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so come back for more stats and insights into that topic.