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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Teens and Cars

The car, practically since its invention, has been the key to a person's freedom and maturation. When the law allows a young adult behind the wheel to assume the full responsibility of operating a car, it entrusts that person has been properly trained and fully educated. The steering wheel opens up a brand new world of choices for the driver and its occupants. But, sadly, many teens have made terrible mistakes and have lost their lives on our nation's highways.

So, today, it's particularly refreshing to read good news, especially when the news relates to such a serious problem. Teens are driving better these days! That's right, better. Since National Teen Driver Safety Week is upon us, I thought I might share the news. I hope the number of terrible accidents continues to decline.

Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road,
and both (hands and eyes) away from your cell phone while driving.
October 17-24, 2010

Erin Mulvaney of The Dallas Morning News reports, "In 2009, Texas saw a 12.1 percent decrease in the rate of traffic deaths, compared to a 9.7 percent drop nationwide. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, the number of traffic deaths last year in the U.S. is the lowest since 1950, when there were one-fifth as many cars on the road.("Traffic Deaths Decline Sharply in Texas; Safer Young Drivers Credited," September 16 2010)

The sharp decrease is explained by a combination of factors -- the economy, an increase in seat belt use, safer roads and vehicles, and more enforcement and awareness programs on the state and national levels.

Also, many changes in driving laws that became effective in September 2009 were directed at younger drivers. Among them: prohibiting cellphone use by any driver younger 18, increased restrictions in the Graduated Driver's License program and a required driving test to obtain a license. But, analysts and experts agree that a decrease in fatal crashes involving young drivers is a key reason.(Erin Mulvaney, "Traffic Deaths Decline Sharply in Texas; Safer Young Drivers Credited," September 16 2010)

Teen Driving Still Has a Terrible Impact

Lee Dye of ABC News reports, "Every 13 minutes someone dies in a traffic in this country, and many of them are teenagers who are still learning how to drive." ("Teen Drivers and Pickup Trucks, a Bad Mix," ABC News Opinion, Oct. 13 2010) Why do we lose so many young people when they are on the threshold of adulthood?

A recent multi-year study of data collected by a Congressionally-mandated research project lead by Chandra Bhat, professor of transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin,  has been published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention. The research focused on traffic data collected by safety researchers at the scene of roughly 7,000 crashes in the United States between January 2005 and December 2007.(R. Paleti, N. Eluru, and C.R. Bhat. "Examining the Influence of Aggressive Behavior on Driver Injury Severity in Traffic Crashes," Accident Analysis and Prevention, Vol 42. 2010

Bhat’s study is the first of its kind to examine how aggressive driving behavior—as well as other driving factors like time of day and number of passengers in a vehicle—relates to the severity of injuries sustained during a traffic accident.

The research adds to the ongoing public concern to find measures to counter aggressive driving and improve driver safety, especially among teenagers for which the leading causes of death are vehicle crashes. (Tim Green, "Teen Drivers: Proceed With Caution," Futurity, October 11 2010)

The Study by Chandra Bhat

The study offers a few answers for the question: "Why do we lose so many young drivers?"

* A teenager driving a pickup truck is twice as likely to be involved in a serious accident as a teenager driving a sedan.Teenagers driving a pickup are more likely to drive aggressively and sustain serious injuries in a crash. 

* A teenager with one young passenger is more likely to be involved in a major accident than a teenager with two or three teenage passengers.

* A teenager, or anyone else, for that matter, is more likely to be involved in a serious accident while driving to school during morning rush hour than any other time of the day.

* Drinking and driving is the deadliest combination for teen drivers and a parental lack of involvement may be a contributing factor in this.

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