Thursday, May 27, 2010

Official statistics from the CDC

Many times people are unsure about the sources used to obtain statistics, so we thought we would use the stats from one of the country's big guns, the Center for Disease Control(CDC). The facts are sobering and we continue to ask all you parents to be tough. The facts are sobering.

Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group.1 In 2008, nine teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash. Fortunately, teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can improve the safety of young drivers on the road.

How big is the problem?
In 2008, about 3,500 teens in the United States aged 15–19 were killed and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.1,2

Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.3

Who is most at risk?
The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.4

Among teen drivers, those at especially high risk for motor vehicle crashes are:

•Males: In 2006, the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 15 to 19 was almost two times that of their female counterparts.1
•Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.5
•Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teenagers are eligible to drive.4
What factors put teen drivers at risk?
•Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations.6
•Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). The presence of male teenage passengers increases the likelihood of this risky driving behavior.7
•Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2005, 37% were speeding at the time of the crash and 26% had been drinking.8,9
•Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2005, 10% of high school students reported they rarely or never wear seat belts when riding with someone else.10
•Male high school students (12.5%) were more likely than female students (7.8%) to rarely or never wear seat belts.10
•African-American students (12%) and Hispanic students (13%) were more likely than white students (10.1%) to rarely or never wear seat belts.10
•At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash is greater for teens than for older drivers.10
•In 2008, 25% of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of 0.08 g/dl or higher.10
•In a national survey conducted in 2007, nearly three out of ten teens reported that, within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. One in ten reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period.10
•In 2008, nearly three out of every four teen drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.10
•In 2008, half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight and 56% occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.10
How can deaths and injuries resulting from crashes involving teen drivers be prevented?
There are proven methods to helping teens become safer drivers. Research suggests that the most comprehensive graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers.1

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems are designed to delay full licensure while allowing teens to get their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions. For more information about GDL systems, see Teens Behind the Wheel: Graduated Drivers Licensing.

When parents know their state’s GDL laws, they can help enforce the laws and, in effect, help keep their teen drivers safe.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Teen drivers need tough love, be a parent, not a pal!

For those of us who have young drivers in the household, this article is compelling and well worth reading. We have all heard much of what Ms. Ziegler is conveying in her article, but are we doing the hard part? Are we putting it into practice?

By Suzanne Ziegler
Minneapolis Star Tribune
The list of advice for parents of teen drivers is long. Have a firm stance against alcohol, always know the other kids they're out with, don't let them drive with a car full of teens, have firm rules and expectations with consequences if they're broken, be a good role model.

But experts say it comes down to hands-on, tough parenting and fighting off a desire to want to be your teen's friend.

"Too often, parents want to give away their responsibility as parents to the schools," said Bruce Novak, superintendent of the Cambridge-Isanti School District in Minnesota, where three high school students died and one was injured in a weekend crash that killed three others. "We're supposed to take care of all those issues and concerns that they're maybe uncomfortable with because they want to be the friend of their child. But our children need parents to guide them directly."

Parents, not pals

Novak said if teens aren't supposed to be out after 10 p.m., the parents should say, "'No, you're not supposed to be out.' And they can throw their little hissy fit and pout and go to their room and be mad. At what point in time do parents finally say: 'I'm going to be the parent. I'm the responsible one'"?

Bill Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota, said parents have become more laid-back, even indulgent. But this is not the time for "wishy-washy" parenting.

"But what you'll hear from some parents is that kids are kids. You can't police them, and you want to keep open lines of communication and blah-blah. The thing is, you have to have as firm a policy as you can have against alcohol use, against your child driving with other teens at night," said Doherty. "Know who their friends are and know if their friends drink and monitor, monitor, monitor."

Like Novak, Doherty, a parenting expert, dismisses the idea that the best parent is a best friend.

"Many parents want to be buddies with their kids and don't want to come down too hard on them," he said. "And many parents have this idea, 'Well, the kids are going to use alcohol anyway, so why be the heavy, why talk about it that much?' What we know from the research is that teens who believe their parents are firmly against them drinking are less apt to drink. Our kids carry us in their brain, and that's why (you need) a firm hand, that 'you're too young to drink and it's not acceptable to me as your parent that you drink at all, let alone drink and drive.' "

Instill values, stay vigilant

Parents also have to realize that just because their son or daughter is a reasonable, responsible young adult doesn't mean their teen is that way around other teens.

"This is what parents need to know: Whatever maturity level your teenager shows alone, you cut it in half if there are other teens in the car," he said. "The more teens present, add alcohol and you get the maturity level of a 6-year-old."

Society is still turning over keys to multi-ton vehicles to young adults whose brains aren't fully mature until they're 25. So what are parents to do? Besides knowing who they're with and what they're doing, instill their values in their teens.

"You can't fully control them, but you can influence them," Doherty said. "We can't fully protect them, but we can reduce the odds that they'll be in that situation. That's what we're talking about."

Gordy Pehrson, youth alcohol and driving coordinator at the Office of Traffic Safety, agreed that teens, by their very nature, feel invincible and throw caution to the wind. Even when they're learning about driving laws, he said, it becomes just "noise" to them after a while.

"Teens know it's wrong to drink and drive, they know it's wrong to speed, they know it's wrong to not wear their seat belt — but they do it anyway," he said. "So I can't emphasize enough the importance of parents, their roles in safe driving with their teens. We can't legislate it, we can't force it down people's throats."

According to Novak, schools have taken on a growing role when it comes to drug and alcohol awareness and even seat belt safety, but he was quick to add schools can't do it all.

"How much more can we do without being there with the child every minute of every day? For me, it is parent responsibility," he said.

Parents should know that they'll need to bite the bullet, said Pehrson. "Kids say that they hate you. It's really tough to make it through those years."

Read more:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tattle tale technology for Teen drivers, coming soon!

Sitting atop the dashboard, she speaks in the same melodic, robotic voice as a GPS.

But this device tattles.

"Reduce speed now," she says, her screen turning red. "Text message will be sent if speeding continues."

It's only a demonstration, but soon, technology developed at the University of Minnesota could keep an electronic eye on teen drivers.

If they speed? Mom and Dad get a text. Don't fasten their seat belts? Car won't shift into drive. Fill their car with friends? Parents find out within seconds.

The researchers believe that technology is one key to reining in rogue drivers and preventing the kinds of crashes that killed 11 people last weekend.

"We'd like to change teens' behavior before they become the next statistics," said Max Donath, director of the U's Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute.

Devices exist that monitor speed or seat belts or cell phone use, but the U's technology -- called the Teen Driver Support System -- goes well beyond that.

"It is the first holistic system to be built and tested by any university or private company," said Michael Manser, director of the institute's HumanFIRST Program.

This month, researchers will test-drive their latest model on parents and teens in Washington and Dakota counties, which have the state's biggest numbers of teen driver fatalities.

"We want to make sure it's usable," Manser said. For example: "How often do parents really want to get text messages?"

Based on that feedback, the U will tweak the technology and later recruit families to use it for a few months. They hope that eventually, the technology will come with the car -- or be offered as a low-cost add-on.

Smart phones and keys

The first prototype, developed in 2006 with some funding from the state and federal departments of transportation, was a complicated, clunky, computer-based device that had to be installed in a car.