Teen Passengers Most Likely Victims in Car Crashes

by : Leaftech

If you're a parent, you know that your sixteen-year-old new driver is extremely expensive to insure because of the perceived risk involved when someone who is young and inexperienced is behind the wheel, but you may not be aware that children between the ages of 12 and 16 years old are more likely than any other age-range to die in a car crash as a passenger.

That grim statistic is the result of a study that was released on March 4, 2008 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. It was conducted as part of an ongoing research collaboration between State Farm Insurance Companies and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and it involved a close examination of data from more than 45, 000 car accidents involving passengers between the ages of eight and seventeen.

Almost 10,000 passengers in that 8-17-year-old age bracket died in car crashes between 2000 and 2005, and according to Flaura Koplin-Winston, M.D, Ph. D, and founder and co-scientific director of CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention,
"We saw a clear tipping point between ages 12 and 14, where child passengers became much more likely to die in a crash than their younger counterparts. Long before these children ever receive a learner's permit, they begin to exhibit a pattern that looks more like the high fatality rates we see for teen drivers."

Of the 9,807 passenger deaths that the CHOP researchers studied, one fifth of the accidents involved alcohol but more than half involved drivers under 20 years old. Roughly two thirds of the victims were not wearing safety belts, and over 75% of the crashes happened on roads where the posted speed limits exceeded 45 mph. These results supported previous research which showed that as children enter adolescence they are increasingly likely to ride in cars driven by classmates, friends, and older siblings - people who are not their parents.

The three biggest risk factors involving older children in car crashes were found to be:

Riding with a driver who is younger than sixteen years old

Not wearing a safety belt

Driving on roads with higher speed limits.

Laurette Stiles, vice president of Strategic Resources for State Farm says, "We should not accept teen crash deaths as random accidents. These deaths are preventable. Our hope is that teens, parents and policymakers will work together to develop a culture of safe, smart passengers by providing guidance, and reinforcing safe behaviors throughout the teen years."

How can you help protect your teenaged passengers? The CHOP research team recommends the following:

Know and trust the person driving. Don't let your child ride with a teen driver who has less than a year of experience behind the wheel.

Monitor your child's travel plans. Be sure you know where they are going, who will be with them, how they are traveling, and when they are expected home.

Set a good example. Children watch and mimic other people. Be sure you don't drink and drive, that you keep your cell phone turned off, and that you obey posted speed limits.
Insist on safe passenger behavior from your children, and make sure they're aware of anything that might distract a driver.

Require seat belts. Everyone in the car should buckle up before the vehicle leaves the driveway or parking lot. Every time.

In addition to these tips, Dr. Koplin-Winston suggests that policy changes, such as graduated driver licensing laws that restrict nighttime driving and passenger transport for new drivers, can help protect teen drivers and their passengers. She and her colleagues also support enforceable safety belt requirements.

The full study, as well as a pamphlet to help parents teach their teens safer driving habits, is available from CHOP's website and from State Farm Insurance.