Teen drivers are statistically one of the riskiest categories of drivers on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers are three times more likely to die in a car crash than drivers over the age of 20, when statistics are adjusted for the number of miles driven. In the United States, more than 2,500 teen drivers die in car crashes each year, and nearly 300,000 are treated in an emergency room for their injuries. Many of these car crashes are due to the most common dangers that face teen drivers.
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Experience makes a significant difference in ability to perform a task effectively and to respond properly to unexpected circumstances. For example, patients in a hospital are more likely to trust a surgeon with 20 years of experience than one who has only been working solo for a month. In the same way, teen drivers in their first year of having their license are much more likely to get in a crash than drivers who have been on the road for decades.
It takes time behind the wheel to develop instincts for what to do in specific situations and to develop a feel for how to handle a vehicle. Teens should get as many hours of supervised practice as possible before being licensed, to help them make the transition to driving on their own.
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Most people think immediately of using a phone when they hear about distracted driving. It is true that phone use, especially when looking at and interacting with the screen, poses a major risk for all drivers. Teen drivers should never look at their phones while driving, and should follow all state laws about hands-free devices for phone use.
There are also other distractions in the car that can be just as dangerous as a phone. For example, adjusting radio stations can take a teen driver’s eyes off the road at a critical time. Eating can also be a distraction that takes a hand and attention away from the road. Lastly, talking to passengers is a risky distraction for teens, which is why many states have graduated licensing programs that prohibit driving passengers for a time after getting licensed.
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Teens who only drive themselves to and from school and other daytime activities do not face the same risks as teens who drive at night. After it gets dark, visibility is impaired and it is much harder to judge the speed and distance of other vehicles on the road. These factors increase the risk of crashes, which helps explain why 61 percent of teen crash fatalities happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Drowsiness also contributes to the danger of driving at night. Teens have a greater need for sleep than adults, yet many do not get enough sleep. Whether they are drowsy late at night or in the morning when driving to school, teens put themselves at risk when they drive while tired. Drowsiness makes it more difficult to focus on the road and causes impaired reaction time, which can lead to car crashes.
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All states now have zero tolerance laws that make it illegal for anybody under the age of 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood. Therefore, even one drink can make a difference and put a teen over the allowable threshold for driving. However, one in 10 surveyed teens report that they have driven after having one or more drinks at least once in the past month.
Driving under the influence of alcohol significantly impairs a teen’s ability to control the vehicle and to respond to other vehicles on the road. In addition, teens are less likely to wear a seatbelt when under the influence of alcohol, which puts them at risk of serious injury or death if they are involved in a crash.
Teen drivers can protect themselves and their passengers by avoiding each of these dangers whenever possible. Teens should never drive under the influence of alcohol and should never use a phone or other handheld electronic device while driving. In addition, teens should be aware of their inexperience and pay special attention to the road at all times to help avoid crashes.
Since 2008, Kimberly Quinones has served as the Vice President of Sales in the Midwest, where she oversees Access Auto Insurance’s
(http://www.access-insurance.com) customer retention programs, service and sales. Her market stretches from the far north, west and south suburbs of Chicago, to Indianapolis. Kim is a proactive leader with initiative and works diligently with her teams and customers to ensure a strong bond is built between our customers, and the teams she works with.