The Number One Killer Of Teens


According to several studies, the number one cause of death among teenagers is driving a motor vehicle. In fact, car wrecks account for 25 percent of teen deaths per year. It is estimated that enough teenagers die each year to fill the halls of one to two large high schools.

The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report in February of 2013 that reflected that teenage deaths were up almost 20 percent between the first six months of 2011 and the first six months of 2012. If the final six months of 2012 remain statistically consistent with the past data, then 2012 is the second year in a row of increases in teenager driving related deaths.

According to the same report, Georgia had six teenagers die in the first six months of 2011 and five in the first six months of 2012 for a net of -1. Other states, such as Illinois and Texas have a much higher rate of teenage fatalities. For example, Illinois had 12 deaths over the same period and Texas had 30. It is easy to recognize that Illinois is currently in a serious fiscal situation and Texas has a much larger population as a whole.

Some causes attributed to the rise of deaths include a healthy economy and driver licensing laws. I also believe that the rise of cell phones along with the temptation of teens to stay in touch whenever and wherever with their peers while operating a car is another newsworthy cause. It has been argued that as the economy strengthens, more teenagers are able to drive vehicles in greater numbers on the roadways of America. I assume with more money in their pocket, teenagers are more prone to discretionary driving despite higher or lower gas prices. I am sure that a poor economy affected the number of teenagers actually applying for licenses and the amount of driving. And, states that have seen reduced revenues in the past are pumping less money into driver licensing laws for teenagers, which lead to fewer drivers’ education and programs.
Among teenage car accidents, a pattern has emerged. Typically, teen crashes occur with a group of teens generally driving with no set destination or purpose at night without seatbelts and in excess of the posted speed limit. The incidence of teenage driver crashes increases with more than one passenger, particularly if such passengers are male. The pattern reflects poor driving habits of teenagers.

In an effort to develop safe and sound driving practices, numerous states started to enact Graduated licensing law (GDL) programs in the 1990s. These programs allow new and/or teenager drivers to accumulate actual driving behind the wheel experience prior to gaining full driving privileges. Generally, the GDL is divided into three stages: learner, intermediate and full. At the learner stage, drivers operate a vehicle under supervision and take numerous driving tests. At the intermediate stage, drivers gain further unsupervised driving experience. Lastly, at the full privilege stage, the driver receives the standard drivers license with all driving privileges attached thereto.
Of the states that enacted GDL legislation for new drivers, many of them went even further and promulgated restrictions on driving including cell phone/texting usage (roughly 31 states and D.C. ban all such usage by new/novice drivers), nighttime driving restrictions (48 states and D.C. limit nighttime driving to intermediate drivers), passenger restriction (45 states and D.C. Restrict the number of passengers in the vehicle of intermediate drivers) and novice driver decal (only New Jersey requires drivers younger than 21 to fully display a decal on their vehicle identifying new driver status).

In Georgia, the minimum age to commence the learner stage is 15 years, which lasts one year and requires 40 hours of supervised driving, of which six hours must be at night. The minimum age to graduate to the intermediate stage is 16 years of age. At this point, a teenager driver is restricted from nighttime driving from midnight – 6 a.m. Excluding family members, teenagers are not allowed any passengers for the first six months and then can have only one passenger younger than 21 years of age for the second six month period. Thereafter, a teenage driver can have no more than three such passengers. Upon reaching the age of 18, Georgia drivers achieve full driving privileges. The studies also demonstrate that parents have a large effect on their respective teenager driving habits and safety. So….to all those parents out there…be strict and be safe.

The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford represent clients throughout Georgia, including teenagers and their families who were injured or lost a loved one in car wrecks. As such, the Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting teenage driver and car crash cases throughout Georgia. And, ff you or a loved one has been injured as the result of the negligence or fault of a teenage driver, then please contact an experienced car accident attorney immediately for a free consultation. Mr. Ford can help clients obtain monetary compensation necessary to pay for past, present and future medical care and provide for a fresh start. Please contact us today for a free consultation.

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