As a result of teen driving fatalities increasing after years of decline, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its recommendations for physicians and parents to address risks that include inexperience, speed and distracted driving.
Despite a nearly 50 percent reduction in crash-related teen deaths over the last decade, teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle crash that causes injury or death than any other age group in the United States.
In its policy statement, “The Teen Driver,” the AAP observes that while vehicle safety advances, graduated licensing laws, improvements in seat belt use and impaired driving enforcement have helped lower the fatality rate over the long term, much work needs to be done to make driving safer for adolescents and the community.
“We all know how easy it is to become distracted while driving, particularly in the age of texting and technology,” said Elizabeth M. Alderman, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, member of the AAP Committee on Adolescence and a lead author of the statement. “Parents can set a powerful example with their own driving habits, from using a seatbelt regularly to avoiding cell phone use or speeding.”
In 2015, 1,886 young drivers died in motor vehicle crashes, an increase of 9 percent from 2014. Another 195,000 teen drivers were injured in vehicle crashes in 2015, up 14 percent from the prior year.
Teen drivers with fewer than 18 months of driving experience have four times the risk of a crash or near-crash event, with risk factors that include inexperience, speed, teen passengers, distraction and use of alcohol, drugs or medication.
The crash risks increase for teen drivers who transport young passengers. More than half of children age 8 to 17 who die in vehicle crashes are killed as passengers of drivers younger than age 20.
“Every state has some form of graduated driver’s licensing regulations, which have helped improve safety by limiting the number of passengers or restricting night-time driving, for instance,” said Brian D. Johnston, MD, MPH, FAAP, a lead author of the report and member of the Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. “Yet more can be done. One step that could make a difference is for communities to more consistently enforce laws on seat belts and use of cell phones while driving.”
The AAP offers a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.