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National Teen Driver Safety Week Starts October 14

10/12/2012
With school back in session and high schools around the country preparing to celebrate homecoming with football games, dances and parties, National Teen Driver Safety Week, which starts on October 14, encourages parents to take the opportunity to discuss with their children the dangers of drinking alcohol and driving, texting and driving, and driving with friends in their vehicle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 35% of teenagers who die do so in traffic accidents, and teenagers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident than those in any other age group. According to AAA, a teenage driver is four times more likely to crash a vehicle when carrying three or more teenage passengers.

"Mixing young drivers with teen passengers can have dangerous consequences," said AAA President & CEO Robert Darbelnet. "AAA urges parents to set and consistently enforce family rules that limit newly licensed teens from driving with young passengers."

A new study by AAA compares teen driver behavior when driving alone to when driving with other teenagers in the car, and may help parents understand some reasons for higher death rates among young drivers.

Among the findings in the AAA research, when they have teenage passengers, teenage drivers are more likely to:
  • Speed
  • Drive after 11 p.m.
  • Consume alcohol
  • Crash their vehicle

"Teen crashes remain a huge problem nationwide," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "Our past research clearly shows how young passengers substantially increase a novice driver's risk of being in a fatal crash."

The National Teen Driver Safety Week program is particularly important this year. Traffic fatalities among drivers of all ages are up 9% year over year through June of 2012, far outpacing the increase in total miles driven by Americans, which rose just 1.1%. This statistic represents the greatest increase in traffic-related deaths during the first half of any year since the NHTSA first began collecting such data in 1975. Previously, the highest recorded year-over-year rise in traffic deaths through the month of June occurred in 1979.

The NHTSA has not yet identified the reasons for this increase, but is studying its data in an effort to pinpoint the causes. Spokespeople within the industry have offered a range of hypotheses including an improving economy, continued deterioration of the nation's highways, bad weather, and increased drug use. Increased texting while driving, particularly among teenage drivers, has also been cited as a possible factor.

The spike in traffic deaths is particularly concerning, given that death rates among teenage drivers declined by 54% between 1991 and 2011, as the NHTSA has worked to increase seat belt use, implement graduated driver's licensing programs, and restrict teen access to alcohol. It appears that the data for the first half of 2012 may start a reversal of this trend.

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