January 26, 2007

U.S. survey outlines teen driver dangers

Bloomington, Illinois – A new U.S. survey representing 10.6 million public high school students shows that many are driving under extremely dangerous conditions, and many are still not wearing seatbelts.

The National Teen Driver Survey, released by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm, reported that 5,665 high school students said they were driving under dangerous conditions, including fatigue, talking on cell phones, strong emotions and multiple passengers.

“Research has told us a lot about which teens get into crashes, but we don’t know enough about the why,” says Flaura Winston, principal investigator of the survey. “With this survey, we asked teens directly: what is happening when your peers drive that is making them unsafe?”

The survey found that 75 per cent of teens see peers driving fatigued; 90 per cent see passenger behaviour that distracts the driver; and 20 per cent of 11th-graders report being in a crash as a driver in the past year.

The survey also found that 66 per cent said they care about their parents’ opinion about cell phone use while driving; 56 per cent rely on parents to learn how to drive; and 39 per cent of parents provide total financial responsibility for their teens’ driving.

“Teens described a driving environment that would be challenging even to experienced drivers,” says Winston. “Combine this driving environment with lack of training and inexperience, and you have a deadly mix.”

In 2005, almost 75,000 15- to 20-year-old drivers were involved in fatal crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Based on miles driven, the fatality rate for drivers aged 16 to 19 years is four times that of drivers aged 25 to 69 years. More information on the research and recommendations can be found at CHOP.edu.

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