Watching your child move from the back seat to the passenger seat and finally, as a teen, from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, is a frightening and stressful time. In fact, it can be so big a step that many parents hesitate to let their teen get behind the wheel in the first place.
Unfortunately, the statistics on teen driving death in 2012 confirm that parents have a right to be worried.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association released its annual report in February on the status of 16 and 17 year old car accident-related deaths in 2012, concluding that teen driving deaths increased for the second consecutive year—jumping from 202 to 240 fatalities.
The 19% increase in adolescent accident fatalities attracted the attention of Dr. Allan Williams, a researcher who previously worked as the chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Dr. Williams conducted the first ever state-by-state study of teen driving deaths, finding that 25 states experienced an increase. And Tennessee ranked at the very top of the list.
According to Dr. Williams’ findings, Tennessee tied with Indiana as the state with the highest number of teen car accident fatalities in the country, with 16 adolescents killed last year alone, up by ten from the year before.
In response to the disturbing numbers, the Director of Tennessee’s Governor Highway Safety Office, Kendall Poole, responded, “Any increase in highway deaths is unacceptable, particularly among our teens. We know from research and experience that teen drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but also a danger to others on the roadways. So these numbers are a cause for concern.”
The good news amongst all this discouraging information is that in general, teen auto fatalities is down overall from prior decades. In 1995, over 1,000 teens died on U.S. roads—well over double the current statistics.
Dr. Williams acknowledges this silver lining, but stresses the importance of continuing to teach adolescents how to drive safely, saying, “We are still at a much better place than we were ten or even five years earlier. However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year.”
The answer to reducing the risk that your teen will be involved in a serious car accident is not by keeping them in the passenger seat forever, but by teaching them that safe driving is the only way to drive.
It’s also important to let your teens know that they, and only they, can be held responsible in the event of an accident. In fact, in many states, like Texas, teen drivers may be further punished by the court for deliberate traffic violations. In such cases, often the parents can be held legally liable for court fines and costs if their teen isn’t able to pay the penalty.
Making teens aware of the data may be a good place to start. After all, if adolescents look at these statistics as more than mere numbers—as their friends and peers—then the dangers of reckless driving become a lot less abstract and a lot more real.
Read Dr. Williams’ report in its entirety here.
Contact a Tennessee car accident attorney to receive expert representation in an auto collision case involving a teen driver.