The good news in the graph above is that U.S. teenage motor vehicle crash deaths have declined dramatically over the past 40 years. Still, motor vehicle accidents remain the number one cause of unintentional death in the pediatric population. (The most common causes of death in children are from accidents, followed by childhood cancers and, as we discovered last week, guns.) Ed Blazina points to a recent study from AAA showing that young drivers ages 16-17 are still the least safe drivers on the road:
The study, announced at the start of what’s called the “100 deadliest days,” between Memorial Day and Labor Day, shows the youngest drivers are 3.9 times more likely to be involved in a crash and 2.6 times more liked to be involved in a fatal crash, according to statistics from 2014-15.
The study claims nearly 60 percent of young drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted by such things as other passengers or their cell phones, about 60 percent weren’t wearing seat belts, and nearly 30 percent were speeding. Other factors for teen crashes included inexperience, driving too fast for conditions and making turns improperly.
A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at the factors leading to child fatalities in car accidents. Researchers investigated car crashes involving more than 18,000 child passengers under the age of 15 in which at least one person was killed. 2,885 (15.9%) of the children involved in these accidents were themselves fatalities in the crashes studied between 2010-2014. Among the findings:
> One in five (20%) of children who were in car crashes where someone dies were improperly restrained or not restrained at all at the time of the accident. Almost half (43%) of children who died were improperly restrained or unrestrained.
> 13% of children in fatal accidents were inappropriately seated in the front passenger seat.
> The majority (52%) of children involved in fatal crashes lived in the southern U.S.; 21% lived in the West, 19% in the Midwest, and 7.5% in the Northeast.
> Children living in states with stricter regulations and enforcement regarding child passenger restraints, and in states with red light cameras did better than those without.
>Most fatal crashes (62%) occurred on rural roads and highways.
> 42% of fatal accidents involved a car, 24% a sport utility vehicle, 17% a pickup truck, and 14% a minivan.
> On average, vehicles involved in fatal accidents were older, averaging 9.4 years old.
> Almost 9% of drivers carrying a child passenger were under the influence of alcohol.
Another study published in Pediatrics in February found that alcohol contributed to 28% of fatal car accidents involving people under 21 years old between 2000-2013. Lisa Rapaport discovered that nearly half of those alcohol-related fatalities occurred at night or on weekends:
“The vast majority of young people who die in alcohol-related crashes are killed on Friday and Saturday evenings,” said lead study author Dr. Scott Hadland of Boston University School of Medicine.
“Parents might consider limiting the extent to which young people drive during late hours on weekends,” Hadland added by email.
Even if youth themselves are not drinking and driving, they are more likely to be killed by adults who have been drinking and driving on weekend evenings, Hadland said.
The vast majority of car accidents are can be traced to preventable human errors of judgement (speeding, drinking and driving, not wearing safety belts) and being distracted (texting). Despite improved safety features in cars and trucks, fatalities in the U.S. are on the rise after several years of being in decline. 2015 saw a 7.2% increase in traffic fatalities from 2014, and 2016 was no better (an increase of more than 10% in the first six months compared to the year prior). David Schaper finds that crash investigators have been very busy:
“We are in the midst of a public health crisis and it isn’t Zika,” says Deborah Hersman, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and now president and CEO of the National Safety Council.
She breaks those numbers down, saying it’s about 100 people killed on our roads a day, “the equivalent of two regional jets crashing, every day. That would be 14 plane crashes a week,” she says.
“If we had 14 plane crashes a week, our hair would be on fire and no one would set foot on an airplane,” Hersman adds. “Why do we accept the fatalities that occur on our roadways?”
Tomorrow is day #37 of the 100 deadliest days on the road. Enjoy the holiday but, please, be careful out there!