Watch out! It’s summertime, and many inexperienced young drivers will be spending more time behind the wheel on city streets and highways across North Carolina.
North Carolina Accidents
Despite dramatic improvements in crash rates for young drivers during the last two decades, teen motorists continue to be a risk to others on the road, especially during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the number of deaths from teen-related wrecks typically rises.
A new report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows 371,645 people sustained injuries and 2,927 died in crashes involving a teen driver in 2013.
Traffic safety researchers say teens are involved in traffic accidents at a higher rate than any other age group for various reasons, but mainly due to inexperience and youthful exuberance. While it makes sense to focus on safety throughout the year, during the summer months, when many teens are out of school and likely to be spending more time driving, extra awareness is needed.
In fact, AAA’s analysis of the federal traffic accident data found an average of 220 teen drivers and passengers lost their lives in car accidents in the summer months of 2013, up 43 percent compared to the rest of the year.
Furthermore, the AAA Foundation analyzed police-report crash data for drivers ages 15 to 19 from 1994 through 2013 and found:
- Sixty-six percent of the people killed in teen-driver crashes are someone other than the young motorist.
- Sixty-seven percent of those injured in teen-driver wrecks are someone besides the teen motorist.
- Almost half of those who sustained injuries were in another car.
- Seventeen percent of those hurt were riding in the teen driver’s vehicles.
- Nearly 30 percent of those killed in teen-driver crashes were in another vehicle.
- Twenty-seven percent of fatal victims were passengers in the teen driver’s vehicle.
- Ten percent of those killed were others such as pedestrians and bicyclists.
It is encouraging to see that teen drivers are involved in substantially fewer fatal accidents than two decades ago.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities in crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 20 in North Carolina fell by more than 50 percent from 2004 to 2013, with improvements made each year.
In comparison, all fatal crashes across North Carolina decreased by 13 percent during the same period.
AAA believes tools such as graduated driver licensing laws in North Carolina and many other states lead to reductions in injuries and death rates among young motorists.
In North Carolina, a person between 15 and 18 years of age seeking a learner’s permit must complete a state-approved driver education course with at least 30 hours in the classroom and six hours of professional driving lessons, according to education4drivers.com.
Drivers with a limited permit must have a parent or grandparent in the car or an appointed driver with a valid license and at least five years of driving experience. A 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. restriction is in place for the first six months, and all use of cell phones is prohibited.
After upgrading to a limited provisional license, a young motorist is prohibited from driving alone between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless a supervising driver is in the vehicle next to them. No more than one passenger is allowed in the vehicle unless it is an immediate family member.
Every person in the vehicle must be wearing seat belts, and young drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving except in emergencies.
Young drivers can obtain a full provisional license if they observe those restrictions for six months and don’t commit any traffic violations during the period.
Still, no cell phones are allowed for full provisional license holders in North Carolina until they turn 18 and get a full driver’s license, according to education4drivers.
Take Parental Precautions
Having a heart-to-heart talk with teens about the privileges and responsibilities of driving is challenging. Often, young drivers think they’re ready to hit the streets as soon as they turn 16.
The National Safety Council offers these tips for parents:
- Keep a curfew: Even though graduated driver licensing sets curfews, make sure your teen driver follows them and consider keeping one even after they obtain a full provisional license.
- Practice helps: Before they go live on the streets, in addition to testing required by the state, ride with them during daylight hours to give helpful pointers and add practice time at night and in inclement weather.
- Make them buckle up: It’s required by law and will help cut down on injuries in case of an accident.
- Prohibit cell phone use: Driving and texting or talking on a cell phone is considered as dangerous as drunk driving because it diverts the eyes, hands, and mind from the task of driving.
- Set rules: Make a written agreement with expectations and penalties such as taking away the keys for violations.
- Remember the dangers: Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in America, claiming the lives of thousands of young drivers every year. Discuss the risks of drinking, smoking, and drug use, along with the danger of operating a motor vehicle.
Being a good parent means keeping the lines of communication open. Stressing driver safety lets your children know you care about them and understand the awesome responsibility that comes with driving. Don’t let them turn into another teen car-crash statistic during the dangerous days of summer.