Auto accidents are No. 1 cause of death of American teenagers, new study finds

June 9, 2014 | 10:17 am


It’s a sobering statistic: Auto accidents are the No. 1 killer of American teenagers, according to a new study released recently called “Teens in Cars.”

The study found that car accidents kill almost as many drivers as passengers, and kills more children than homicide or suicide.

The study — paid for by the General Motors Foundation, Safe Kids and based on a national survey of 1,000 teenagers between 13 and 19 — also found the following:

  • In half of fatalities, the teenager was not wearing a seat belt. One in four teenagers said they don’t use a seat belt on every ride. Top reasons included that they forgot, weren’t driving far, and that seat belts were uncomfortable.
  • Also, teens who didn’t wear seat belts were more likely to say they texted while driving than who wore seat belts.
  • The odds of a crash or near-crash in newly-licensed teen drivers was more than eight times greater when dialing a cell phone.
  • 49 percent of teens reported feeling unsafe when riding with a teen driver.
  • When someone was driving dangerously, four in 10 teens said they asked the driver to stop, but almost the same number said they did nothing.

In 2012, nearly 2,400 teen drivers died in motor vehicle accidents. A little more than half of the teenagers killed, 56 percent, were driving at the time of the fatal crashes; 44 percent of the victims were passengers. Only 10 percent of respondents said they’d been in cars driven by teenagers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

This isn’t the first study to highlight such findings. A recent study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also put auto accidents as the No. 1 killer of teenagers.

There is some good news, however. A recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reported noted that fatalities for 2012 had dropped 7 percent from 2011. Similarly, the Safe Kids study said teenage auto deaths had dropped 56 percent from their peak in 2002, when nearly 5,500 children between the ages of 13 and 19 died.

The survey also provides some strategies for parents and families to stay safe while riding as a passenger and a driver.

  • Make using a seat belt for every ride a habit, starting when kids are young.
  • Be a safety role model by observing speed limits, putting phones away while driving, and following the rules of the road.
  • Talk to teens and kids about ways to speak up if a driver of any age isn’t driving safely.

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also have some advice in the case you or your teen are involved in an auto accident. Remember to take the following 3 steps if you have been involved in an automobile accident or motor vehicle accident:

  • Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.
  • Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but DO NOT talk to anyone else (especially insurance adjusters) about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.
  • Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

For more tips and answers to frequently asked questions related to vehicle-related accidents, go to chainlaw.com, or visit our specialized site dedicated to helping those who have been involved in car accidents — www.bakersfieldcaraccidentlaw.com.