Motor vehicle accidents among teens have reached epidemic proportions. According to the National Highway Transportation, car accidents and other motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds. The Centers for Disease Control has reported the same findings for 16 to 19 year olds. In fact, teens are involved in three times as many fatal car crashes as other drivers. In 2006 alone, drivers between 15 and 17 caused personal injury to over 400,000 people and over 2,500 wrongful deaths.
Within the teen driver population, alcohol, speeding, and distracted driving are major factors in teen related car accidents and deaths. Of 15 to 20 year old male drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents, 38% percent were speeding and 24% were intoxicated. Drivers under age 20 constitute the largest portion of distracted drivers. Over 15 percent of fatal car crashes involving teens were reportedly caused by distracted driving.
On this National Teen Driver Safety Week, more must be done to reduce the risk of teen related injuries and death from car accidents. The growing trend to outlaw cell phone use while driving in Chicago and other cities is an important step. Stiffer penalties against drunk driving, particularly among teens, must be passed as well. Speeding among teens should also carry stiffer penalties. This is especially true when a teen driver is cited for traveling in excess of 20 MPH above the legal speed limit. We are loosing too many, at too young an age, to not do more.