Teen Drivers Safer Today Than 10 Years Ago
The good news is that driving fatalities among teens have been decreasing over the last decade, though there was an increase in 2015 over the previous year. Rates have been declining since 1975 with a significant drop of 69 percent between that year and 2015. In 2006, the number of fatalities was 5,156 in the 13 to 19 age group. In 2015, there were 2,715. Regardless, this is a number that is still far too high.
Researchers point to a number of factors to explain the decrease:
- Graduated driver’s licensing program(GDL). Instituted in the 1990s and now implemented by all states, this program restricts licenses for teens until age 18. They are not permitted to drive during certain hours and may not have a certain number of teen passengers. Also, many states have increased the permit age to at least 16 followed by an intermediate license before full privileges are granted. Studies definitely link strong GDL programs to a pronounced drop in fatal accidents. Particular emphasis has been on the night driving restrictions that researchers say has been a vital component in the reduction of car accidents overall.
- Older drivers. Many teens are delaying getting their licenses until age 18 or older. If going out, they find it easier, cheaper and more practical to use Uber or Lyft. It is also more expensive to drive with costly insurance premiums and the high-cost cost of gasoline, eating out or going to movies or other entertainment events.
- Social media and gaming. Many teens conduct a portion of their social lives on social media or spend time playing interactive video games.
Safety advocates might wish to point out that education about the dangers of drunk driving and distracted driving have been effective in reducing fatalities. This may be true for drinking with studies showing that drinking and driving among high school students have gone down by 54% since 1991. Regardless, alcohol is a factor in one-third of fatal car accidents involving teen drivers. A huge percentage, or around 85 percent of teens, say they have engaged in binge drinking (at least 5 drinks) in the past month.
Distracted driving, however, is on the increase. While eating, or using a GPS system are distractions, the main culprit is texting and driving. This activity takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off of driving. Texters take an average of 5 seconds to send a text. At 60 mph, you travel the length of a football field during this period, more than enough time to fail to see and react to a hazard or to maintain control of your car.
Strict texting and driving laws are yet to be effective through increased education, and more use of technology that gets phones out of the hands of drivers may eventually see numbers decrease.