Prom and graduation seasonis here again, and although it is a time for celebration, it also the most dangerous time for teens regarding traffic fatalities. The biggest danger teens face on prom or graduation night is auto accidents, either because the driver has been drinking, is tired, or is simply distracted by a carload of friends. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the months from April thru July see some of the highest teenage traffic fatalities of the entire year.
In the United States, although teenagers drive less than their parents, the numbers of crash deaths involving teens are disproportionately high. The IIHS reports that in the U.S., the fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16-19-year-olds is nearly 3 times the rate for drivers ages 20 and over. The fatal crash rate per mile drove is nearly twice as high for 16-17-year-olds as it is for 18-19-year-olds.
A new study by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that teen driver deaths increased in 2012. Preliminary data in the study indicated deaths of 16 and 17-year-old drivers was up 19% for the first six months of 2012.
A heightened focus on underage drinking, particularly at prom and graduation time is critical to help reduce traffic fatalities. According to statistics provided by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter involve an underage drinking driver.
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported that in 2012, 54% of the deaths of teenage passengers in passenger vehicles occurred in vehicles driven by another teenager. Among deaths of passengers of all ages, 14% occurred when a teenager was driving.
In addition to alcohol, distractions, such as texting and talking on a cell phone are also contributing to this high rate of accidents among teens. Distracted driving is causing accidents with adults as well, but tech-savvy teens are particularly prone to doing it, and the presence of passengers is extremely distracting for them. According to researchers they have found that fatal crash rates for 16 to 19-year-olds increase fivefold when two or more teen passengers or present versus when teens drive alone.
What can you do to keep your child safe during this dangerous time? Talk openly and honestly with them about these statistics. Discuss the dangers of drinking and driving and distracted driving. Talk candidly about the dangers of underage drinking in general, which is so prevalent during prom and graduation time. Encourage your child to take advantage of public transportation if it is available or chip in for a chauffeured ride for a special occasion. Drive with your child as often as you can to coach them on the rules of the road. Tell your child you will be available at all hours to take his or her phone call and provide a ride if needed – no questions asked. Communicate your driving rules clearly – always use seatbelts, obey speed limits, no driving if under the influence of alcohol or any other substances, do not ever get into a car driven by anyone who is under the influence or drowsy and no distractions. You should also confirm the location of after-prom or graduation parties and find out who is attending and if there will be adult supervision. A party that is not supervised is likely to involve alcohol or drugs. Let your child know that prom and graduation season is something they should always remember – for the right reason