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Teen Driver Crashes Cost $34
Billion Annually in U.S.
AAA Michigan supports teen
DEARBORN, Mich. - A first-ever
analysis from AAA finds that crashes involving teen drivers ages
15 to 17 cost American society more than $34 billion annually in
medical expenses, lost work, property damage, quality of life
loss and other related costs in 2006.
"The impact of a teen crash
extends beyond the emotional tragedies and physical injury at
the crash scene, with costs that can extend to employers,
families, the government and society overall," said Jack Peet,
community safety services manager for AAA Michigan. "These
economic figures provide one more reason for legislators to
improve graduated driver licensing laws in their states."
One key improvement would be to
limit the number of teen passengers allowed in a vehicle driven
by a teen or novice driver.
According to a March 2008 report
by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
when teenage drivers transport passengers there is a greatly
increased crash risk, with greater risk associated with more
passengers. In fact, when there are multiple passengers, the
crash risk is 3 to 5 times greater.
The risk is also greater for
younger drivers (age 16 and 17). The study sponsored by NHTSA
found that in California, Massachusetts and Virginia, passenger
restrictions reduced crashes among 16-year-old drivers. Crash
involvement per 1,000 16-year-old drivers fell from 1.07 to 0.85
in California after passenger restrictions were passed. The
reduction was from 0.88 to 0.61 in Massachusetts and from 1.41
to 1.10 in Virginia.
In Michigan, there are currently
no passenger limits in place. Rep. Edward Gaffney (R-Grosse
Pointe Farms) has sponsored HB 4151, which would limit the
number of teen passengers to one. The bill has been referred to
the legislature's Transportation committee. Another bill would
prohibit 16-year-old drivers from using cell phones while
driving. Cell phones and teen passengers are among the most
worrisome sources of distraction for teen drivers.
New research by AAA shows an
alarmingly high number of teens admit to engaging in very risky
behavior behind the wheel. Some of these behaviors -- like
driving under the influence -- are problems the safety community
has battled for years. Others -- like text messaging while
driving -- are new behaviors. They all pose a threat to road
users and must be corrected by teens, parents and safe driving
educators for the safety of teens and everyone else who uses our
"Motor vehicle crashes are the number one
killer of teens, claiming more than 6,000 15- to 20-year-olds each
year," said Peet. "Many of these deadly crashes are due to immaturity
and inexperience, factors that can be partially addressed by helping
teens gain valuable driving experience in a low-risk learning
A low-risk learning environment includes:
Minimizing distractions such as teen
passengers, cell phones, MP3 players or CDs;
Driving during the daytime when crash
and fatality rates are lower for teens and drivers of all ages;
Providing positive driving role models
through parents who exhibit safe driving behaviors such as obeying
speed limits, not driving while distracted, refraining from drinking
and driving, and being courteous to other drivers.
According to Peet, teens need parents to
be positive role models and to play active roles in their driving lives.
In addition to spending ample time in the vehicle during the learner's
permit stage of licensing, parents also need to start a dialogue with
their teens to discuss leading risk factors for teens and how to prevent
them. Discussions can begin with topics parents may already be familiar
with such as obeying speed limits, wearing seat belts, and the dangers
of drinking or using other drugs and driving. These topics can lead to
discussions of the hazards of driving at night, and various driving
distractions such as teen passengers and cell phones.
To help teens improve their driving
skills, parents can purchase AAA's Driver-ZED Teen Driving kit, which
includes an interactive DVD and a parent/teen contract that encourages
teens to become more responsible drivers. The kit is available at any
full-service AAA branch. A nominal fee of $10 is charged for members,
$15 for non-members. For parents and teens seeking help with the 50-hour
behind the wheel practice phase of driver education, AAA also offers a
"Teaching Your Teens to Drive" handbook and DVD at $10 for members, $15
for non-members. To order, call 800-646-4222.
(May 29, 2008)