Teen Driving Deaths

We are fortunate and proud to be the home of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which is the premier transportation research institute in the world.

On 11/07/18, the Houston Chronicle published an article by Lisa Minjares-Kyle of Texas A&M Transportation Institute regarding teen crash deaths. According to the article, car crashes remain the number 1 cause of death and injury for teens. Teen car crash deaths were actually on a decline before the trend reversed in 2013. What happened?

Texting or talking while driving. Texting doubles a driver’s reaction time. Although teens acknowledge the risk, more than 1/3 say they talk or text “some” or “a lot” while driving.

The presence of teen passengers raises the crash likelihood for teen drivers. Ms. Minjares-Kyle cites a Temple University study which proves young adults were about 50% more likely to make riskier decisions in the presence of friends, and adolescents were more than twice as likely to do so. My anecdotal experience as a parent and lawyer bears this out.

Nighttime conditions are particularly dangerous for inexperienced drivers. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 1/3 of teen crash deaths happen between 6 P.M. and midnight.

According to the article, teens believe that alcohol is the biggest threat, but only about 1 in 10 admit to drinking and driving, 80% say they never do, and alcohol is a factor in only about 12% of fatal crashes involving 16 to 17 year old drivers.

It seems clear that years of public information campaigns regarding the perils of drinking and driving have had a positive impact, but that the same sort of campaign has not been effective to combat cell phone use.

Ms Minjares-Kyle had this to say: “For teens, cell phone use is more than just a habit; it’s a functional addiction. We should work on breaking that cycle so the dependency isn’t so overpowering when they get in a car.”

I can only add that the “functional addiction” problem applies to more than teenagers.