You might wonder what the leading cause of teen deaths in motor vehicles is. An easy guess would be texting and distracted driving and indeed they do contribute to a high proportion of motor vehicles and injuries. Alcohol use also plays a large role in teen accidents, but it also is not the major culprit. Of course, inexperience is also a key factor in teen accidents.
Shockingly, the leading cause of teen deaths from vehicle accidents is a problem older than cell phones:
50% of teens who are killed in car accidents were not wearing their seatbelts.
This statistic has been confirmed by not only Safe Kids Worldwide but also the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There seems to be a higher percentage of teen drivers who wear seatbelts as opposed to teen riders who wear seatbelts. Because of warning bells and high fine tickets for not being belted in, most teen drivers are belted and the numbers of teen driver fatalities have dropped significantly.
It’s a different story with teen riders. In a General Motors’ sponsored survey, 25% of teen riders admitted to not regularly buckling up, especially in the back seat. In the state of Michigan, all passengers in the front seat must be buckled up. However, in the back seat, only those passengers who are 15 or under are required by law to be buckled up or in a child safety seat. Added to this is the neurological and psychological development of teenagers. They tend to be impulsive (because of their biological brain development, not because of a character flaw) and they also have an exaggerated sense of invincibility. As these components come into play, amidst a lack of peer pressure to buckle up, the likelihood of unrestrained teen riders increases.
So, we see a paradox. Teen drivers have become more compliant with the usage of seat belts and their fatalities have decreased. But, teen rider fatality statistics are in fact unchanged.
As parents, you can help the teens in your life survive the 100 Deadliest Days with frank talk about these statistics and more importantly by modeling safe driving and riding. Show your kids that you mean what you say and buckle up in the driver seat, in the passenger seat, in the front and in the back.