Driving distractions and inexperience are well-recognized factors that greatly contribute to vehicle crashes involving young drivers. In an exclusive research survey conducted for AAA Kansas by Public Policy Polling, 994 Kansas residents were asked their opinion on the biggest reason for teen driving crashes. The results were as follows:
• Distraction by cellphone — 55 percent
• Lack of driving experience — 16 percent
• Distraction by passengers — 13 percent
• Not sure — 11 percent
• Drinking and driving — 5 percent
School is out and summer is here, which means more teen drivers will be getting their licences and hitting the road. Steps should be taken to warn them of unsafe driving habits.
According to AAA, new teen drivers, ages 16-17 years old, are three times more likely than adults to be involved in a deadly crash.
This alarming finding comes as people enter the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 15 percent compared to the rest of the year.
“We see a lot of accidents this time of the year involving young people,” Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said. “In the city we see minor fender benders, but in the county we see accidents that involve the vehicle going off the roadway. Most times the cause is unknown, but we expect that it is related to lack of driving experience, and cellphone usage.”
Over the past five years, more than 1,600 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving inexperienced 16- and 17-year-old drivers during this period.
Kansas Department of Transportation crash data from 2015, the latest information available, shows 15- to 19-year-old drivers were involved in 11,348 crashes – more than 31 each day – resulting in 2,732 injuries and 40 fatalities.
“Statistics show that teen crashes spike during the summer months because teens are out of school and on the road,” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director Dr. David Yang said. “The Foundation’s research found that inexperience paired with greater exposure on the road could create a deadly combination for teen drivers.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest study, rates of motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths in relation to driver age, analyzes crash rates per mile driven for all drivers and found that for every mile on the road, drivers ages 16-17 years old are:
• 3.9 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a crash
• 2.6 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a fatal crash
• 4.5 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a crash
• 3.2 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a fatal crash
According to AAA, fatal teen crashes are on the rise. The number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes increased more than 10 percent from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2015 crash data.
To reverse this alarming trend, AAA urges parents to help reduce the number of deadly crashes on the road by getting more involved and talking to their teens about the dangers of risky behavior behind the wheel.
“We want to teach our teen drivers to be responsible when on the road,” Bellendir said. “Follow traffic laws, don’t be on your phone, wear your seat belt, pay attention to the road, don’t drink and drive and to be aware of their surroundings when driving.”