A recent string of deadly crashes involving teen drivers in Michigan highlights the ever-growing need to focus on the youngest and most inexperienced drivers on the road. Of particular concern for traffic safety experts is driving distractions, which are especially hazardous for teen drivers.
According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, distractions - including passengers - are the number one reason new drivers crash. Nationally in 2009, 16 percent of drivers under age 20 who were involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted while driving.
"Distractions can be especially difficult for teen drivers who are less experienced and less knowledgeable than more seasoned drivers," said Michael L. Prince, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) director. "National Teen Driver Safety Week is an excellent opportunity for parents and teens to recognize and discuss the dangers of all driving distractions, including passengers and cell phones."
In a 2006 study, researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found nearly 80 percent of all crashes involved driver inattention just prior to the crash. The study also found judgment error related crashes were more prevalent in 18 to 20-year-old drivers than all other age groups.
OHSP recommends parents help reduce their teen driver's potential distractions by limiting the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, reminding their teen to turn off their cell phone while driving and always wear a seat belt.
In addition, OHSP's Thumbs on the Wheel campaign reminds all drivers of Michigan's texting ban, which prohibits drivers from reading, typing or sending texts while driving. As part of the campaign, copies of the Thumbs on the Wheel materials and other teen driver related materials were sent to all Michigan high schools.
Last year in Michigan, 154 people were killed and 1,485 were seriously injured in crashes involving drivers age 16-20. Of those fatalities, 80 were a 16-20 year old driver or passenger.
Established in 2007, National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 17-24, is an effort to raise awareness and provide solutions to young driver crashes. It is recognized during the third week of every October.
For more information about teen driving safety, please visit www.nhtsa.gov and www.distraction.gov.