Why Driving Leads to Many Fatal Incidents

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“Only the good die young,” is an aphorism that most have heard, but why is it that the leading cause of death in young people is vehicle accidents? The fact of the matter is that teens, for many reasons, are involved in more fatal crashes than any other age group. Teen driver safety, or the lack thereof, is very problematic in the state of Missouri; teens die senselessly every day due to this problem, and most cases could be prevented if people simply became more knowledgeable. There is a staggering amount of teen deaths every year in Missouri, and the leading cause is car crashes. There are eight broad categories that attribute to this factoid. Inexperience in teen drivers is the most substantial reason for these accidents. The possibility of teens being unprepared to operate a vehicle, or the lack of awareness of both teens and their parents surrounding the danger of teen passengers and the distractions they bring are two very feasible explanations for the high rate of driver inexperience-caused accidents.

Another common cause of crashes is teen passengers. Teen drivers are two hundred fifty percent more likely to drive recklessly and make more impulsive and essentially worse decisions when they are accompanied by just one adolescent passenger; the risk of a crash occurring increases with every passenger. Studies have found that teens use their seatbelt less than any other age group. A high majority of teens killed in accidents were not restrained. By Missouri law, anyone in the front seats of a vehicle has to wear a seatbelt, and anyone under sixteen must wear a seatbelt no matter where they are positioned in a vehicle. Over half of teen passengers killed in accidents, fifty-eight percent, were not restrained. Distracted driving is also a very common problem for teen drivers. Thirty percent of teens admit to texting and driving, which increases the risk of a crash by twenty-three thousand percent. Putting on makeup and fiddling with a radio are two other possible distractions for drivers. Teens are almost always attempting to multitask as they drive, and this proves to be a fatal habit every day.

Drowsy or sleepy driving is problematic for all drivers, teens especially. Teenagers have so much going on between school, work, time with family and friends, and extra-curricular activities; sometimes high schoolers choose other things over sleep. In 2015, teens accounted for ten percent of all drowsy driving fatalities. Teenagers need a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night, and getting less than six can be very unhealthy. So much growth, both of body and brain, occurs during the teenage years and rest is extremely important. A recurrent cause for accidents in driving teens is impaired driving, whether the impairment be alcohol or drugs. Drinking or buying alcohol is illegal in the United States until the age of twenty-one. Drugs, prescription or over the counter, impair driving ability. One-fifth of teens killed in wrecks in 2015 had alcohol in their systems at their time of death.

Teens are the most likely age group to be killed in a crash where alcohol or drugs are involved. Speeding contributed to twenty-nine percent of teen crashes in 2015. Studies show that the likelihood of drivers to speed increases over time, the longer they drive. Teens should be especially careful of speeding during inclimate weather, or while driving on bumpy or winding roads. In the case that a teen does engage in activities that could potentially impair their driving, many ways exist for them to still get home safely; there is never an excuse to put yourself and others at risk. An unsurprising fact is that teens are most likely to get into accidents on the weekends. Saturday’s are most notorious for teen crashes, followed by Friday’s and Saturday’s. A large majority of these accidents occur between 9 P.M. and 12 A.M.: nearly one fifth of them. The most obvious reason for this statistic is that at these times, school is not in session for teens. Moreover, teens could very well be in a rush to get home and meet curfew, causing them to be reckless. Missouri ranks in the top ten in the United States for teen driver deaths.

Distracted driving has been found to be the number one cause of these crashes. Despite the GDL laws created to benefit new drivers and the widespread drivers education programs offered in the state, teen driving deaths are still far too common in Missouri. In 2017, nine hundred thirty-two people died due to vehicle fatalities in the state of Missouri. In the year before, 2016, nine hundred forty-seven died of the same cause. In only the first twenty-three days of 2018, there had been fifty vehicular deaths; four of those occurred in the Troop G area, which encompasses West Plains. Teens between fifteen and twenty years old accounted for 284 of the total deaths by crashes in Missouri from 2013-2015. That is 11.87% of the total deaths in those years, which is a smaller percentage than only elderly people over sixty-six years of age. The number of teen fatalities is astounding, in our area and across the state. In 2016, people in the age range of sixteen to twenty years old had a mortality rate over three times higher, per mile driven, than people twenty-one and over. Sixteen and seventeen year olds’ rate is twice as high as that of eighteen and nineteen year olds. Also in 2016, teens accounted for eight percent of all crash fatalities. In 2014, male teenage drivers and their passengers were involved in fatal crashes twice as often as their female counterparts. Two years ago, over half of the deaths of teenage passengers occurred when the vehicle was driven by another teen. This is not to say that teens are not skilled drivers, but they are inexperienced.

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Teenagers have a tendency to not fully grasp the impact of their actions, both on themselves and others. Teen brains are constantly changing and maturing, and still do so into adulthood. Adolescents make their decisions based on emotions, using their heart; adults usually use more logic and deep thinking, using their head. Teens do still know right from wrong, and undoubtedly can still make good, well thought out decisions. Juveniles are more likely to: act impulsively, misunderstand social situations and the emotions of others, fight, and get involved in risky situations than their adult counterparts, based on their brains’ state of maturity. Teens are less likely to: fully think through a situation before they react, consider the consequences of their actions, understand their wrongdoings, and stop their bad or dangerous behaviors than adults, based on their brains’ state of maturity. Adolescent brains are still developing, and teens have less life experience than fully matured adults.

In the tragic event that a teenager’s life is taken away in an accident, the friends and family of the person have a battle of their own to take on. They must give themselves time to heal and get back into their normal routine, despite their devastating loss. Everyone copes differently. Talking to a professional, friend, family member, or just anyone who will lend an ear helps the healing process along tremendously. It’s terrible to think that people die at such a young age every single day, people who have so much life ahead of them.

There are many organizations who make an effort to increase the knowledge of teen drivers, in turn increasing their safety on the road. The U.S. Department of Transportation, Impact Teen Drivers, National Safety Council, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Drop It and Drive, and End Distracted Driving, among many others, are some organizations that attempt to further educate teenage drivers. Teens aren’t the only group that need to become more knowledgeable, parents should also take more initiative in increasing the safety of their children.

The lack of safety in teen drivers seems like it may be so problematic in Missouri that it cannot be helped; truly, this situation could be avoided in many ways. Teens practicing their driving more in general, as well as having more experience in potential serious scenarios, would greatly help the cause. Also, teens discussing serious local accidents can make them more aware of just how possible it is for this dilemma to become their own dilemma. A foolproof way to make teens drive more safely is for their parents to make them pay their own tickets and fines. Ultimately, one of the biggest influences for teens is their family, and how their families drive is no exception.

Passengers are a huge problem in regards to teen driving. Missouri law puts a one passenger restriction on drivers during the first six months they possess a license, under the circumstances that the passenger is not a family member and is not over the age of nineteen. Passengers increase the possibility of a fatal crash by almost fifty percent. This is not to say that teen passengers intend to cause accidents in any way, but it is crucial that teen drivers understand the distraction factor that accompanies passengers.

Most adolescents have a cellular device of some kind, whether it be a smart or flip phone. Teenagers check their phones at least once every time they operate a vehicle, studies have found. Looking away from the road, even for only two seconds, makes driving far more dangerous. Texting while operating a vehicle is one of the biggest contributors to death in teens. Extra features in automobiles greatly increase the safety of their drivers. If teens do get into accidents, which is sometimes inevitable, certain extra safety features in newer vehicles increases chance of survival substantially. Airbags, lane departure warning systems, and automated breaks are examples of these features. The amount of potential solutions to the problem of lack of safety in teen drivers is astounding.

Teenagers have so much life ahead of them, yet so many lives are taken too soon; a high majority of these deaths are caused by car crashes. Safety of teens while driving can be increased so easily and in so many different ways. Only the good die young, but that does not mean that they have to.

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