/PRNewswire/ -- An inaugural national research report released today from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm Insurance Companies ® shows that the impact of teen driver crashes extends far beyond teen drivers' families and friends. In 2008, more than half a million (681,000) people were involved in crashes where a teen driver was behind the wheel. More than 40,000 were injured, and nearly 30 percent of those who died in these crashes were not in cars driven by teens.
"When most people think about those affected by teen driver crashes, they think of the teens behind the wheel. We must also consider the significant impact of these crashes on other members of our communities: occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road-users," says Dennis Durbin, M.D., M.S.C.E., co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP, and a co-author of the report. "Whether we have a teen driver in our family or not, we should all care about this issue. This report provides a concrete way to measure the effectiveness of laws, education, and other programs in reducing teen crashes and their impact on communities."
This first annual report from State Farm and CHOP mines the most credible data from diverse federal data sources, and establishes 11 indicators to help policymakers and safety practitioners determine progress in key areas affecting teen driving safety. The report is the first to compile this information into a single resource, making it more accessible and useful to those responsible for setting policy, training, and curriculum standards. Researchers focus on four key behaviors among teen drivers that contribute to crashes or crash fatalities, that can also be tracked using federal data sources: failure to use seat belts, speeding, alcohol use, and distracted driving.
"Reducing speeding and alcohol use, increasing seat belt use, and eliminating distractions for teen drivers are the four calls-to-action we see in this report that would have great impact on reducing injuries and fatalities for all road users," says Dr. Durbin, who is also an emergency physician. "More than half of teens who were fatally injured in crashes were speeding, 40 percent had a positive blood alcohol level, more than half were not wearing seat belts, and 16 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving."
The report also shows that more teens die from car crashes than from cancer, homicide, and suicide combined. Teen driver and peer passenger deaths account for one-quarter (24 percent) of total teen deaths from any cause. However, the authors stress that teen fatalities are just "the tip of the iceberg." Thousands more - including friends, family members, and others on the road - suffer physical injuries, psychological trauma, and disruption to their everyday lives.
Research shows most of these tragedies are due to inexperience, and are therefore preventable. Strong Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, which allow teens to gain experience under lower-risk conditions, are proven to be one effective measure. To further reduce the number of deaths and injuries with teens behind the wheel, public health programs and GDL and other traffic safety laws should focus on the key teen behaviors known to raise crash risk: speeding, alcohol use, distractions from peer passengers and cell phones, as well as failure to wear a seat belt.
"Since 2006, State Farm and CHOP have been working together to improve teen driver safety. Our research has provided evidence to support stronger graduated driver licensing laws and increased parental involvement in the learning to drive process," says Susan Hood, claims vice president at State Farm. "Since working with Congress to establish the first National Teen Driver Safety Week in 2007, we've seen major strides in support for teen driving programs. Safety advocacy groups, legislators, educators and teens are rallying to reduce teen car crashes and save lives. This annual report is the next step in supporting continued improvements that will help keep teen drivers safe, and those who share the road with them."
The federal government recently expanded its Healthy People 2020 initiative to include target goals related to teen driving, including a 10 percent reduction in fatality rate and a 10 percent increase in seat belt use. This report will help monitor annual progress toward these goals, as well as other important indicators of teen driving safety.
Monitoring these indicators regularly will help those who set direction in public health and safety to motivate action, measure progress and recalibrate programs as necessary to further advance the safety of everyone on the road.
The full report and more information can be found at www.TeenDriverSource.org.
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