You may find it surprising to learn that car accidents are the leading cause of death for United States teenagers. And, sadly, according to the results of a new study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of teen deaths caused by automobile accidents increased in the first half of 2011. This increase was particularly surprising since teen deaths from car accidents had been declining in the years prior to 2011.
The data collected and analyzed by the GHSA was shared with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with the goal being to assist the federal agency in reducing the number of teenage deaths on our nation’s highways.
As explained in this Washington Post article, although there was a definite increase in the number of teenage deaths, it was not a markedly large change:
The raw numbers of the increase were not huge — the number of 16-year-olds killed increased from 80 to 93, and among 17-year-olds it went from 110 to 118 — but in an era when teen deaths and overall highway fatalities have been in steady decline, they raised alarms with safety advocates.
Although the reasons for the increase are still unclear, one reason offered was the failure of many teens to use seatbelts. Another contributing factor suggested by some was distracted driving due to the use of smart phones while on the road.
As discussed in the Washington Post article, the statistics regarding the use of smart phones by teens while driving are striking:
A Pew Research Center survey said 43 percent of teenagers said they have talked on a cellphone while driving, 48 percent said they had been in car with a driver who was texting and 40 percent said they had been in a car when the driver used a cellphone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.
So, while the exact reason for the increase remains unclear, what is certain is that steps need to be taken to reduce the number of deadly car accidents that teenagers are involved in. Enforcing existing safety regulations, including anti-texting laws and seatbelt laws are a start. Another important step would be to increase the number of programs which educate teenagers about the dangers of distracted driving. Hopefully, these steps will help to stop the latest trend and reduce the number of teenage car accidents in 2012.