Teen Drivers in Fatal Crashes 4x More Than Adults

State Farm Insurance Cos. joined forces with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to conduct a study that hones in on the most common errors teen drivers make that lead to a serious crash.

By getting very specific about the types of teen driver errors that are most likely to precede a crash, this study makes it possible to target policies, programs, driver education and other strategies to reduce those critical errors and prevent crashes from happening, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says. 

The findings, which were published in the "Accident Analysis and Prevention" journal, reveal that teen drivers are involved in fatal crashes at four times the rate of adults.

"This research gets us one step closer to understanding why teens crash and what we can do to help prevent future crashes," says Cindy Garretson, director of auto technology research at State Farm.

Researchers analyzed a nationally representative federal database of more than 800 crashes involving teen drivers and identified a few common "critical errors" that are often one of the last in a chain of events leading up to a crash. Seventy-five percent of these crashes were due a critical teen driver error, with three common errors accounting for nearly half of all serious crashes.

Among crashes with a teen driver error:

• 21% occurred due to lack of scanning that is needed to detect and respond to hazards

• 21% occurred due to going too fast for road conditions, (for example, driving too fast to respond to others, or to successfully navigate a curve)

• 20% occurred due to being distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle

The researchers note that environmental conditions, such as poor weather, vehicle malfunction, aggressive driving or physical impairments such as drowsy driving were not primary factors in most crashes.

"This study helps dispel the myth that most teen crashes are due to aggressive driving or thrill-seeking," says Allison Curry, Ph.D., lead author and a researcher at CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP). "Promoting safe driving skills is as important as preventing problem behaviors."

Study co-author Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE, who co-directs CIRP says, "Laws and policies that address distractions by limiting the number of peer passengers and prohibiting cell phone use among novice drivers will help reduce crash rates, but will only address part of the problem.  Many crashes will still occur due to the inability of teen drivers to detect and respond to a hazard in time. Formal teen driver training and parent-teen practice drives should focus on building scanning and hazard awareness skills."

CHOP and State Farm have been conducting research and providing evidence-based resources to stakeholders and families since 2006. The multidisciplinary research team employs comprehensive, rigorous methods to understand and predict teen driver crashes, in order to prevent them. 

For more information about the study and efforts, visit www.TeenDriverSource.org.

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