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News - Teen driver accident frequency spikes during May


  • May 01, 2013

In a month where teenage drivers often find themselves on the road headed to prom, graduation ceremonies or even just eager to get a head start on a summer job or vacation, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) cautions teens and their parents to use a little extra care while driving to the next big event. KFB Insurance claims data has revealed that May is one of the busiest months of the year for accidents among teenage motorists in Kentucky.

According to KFB Insurance claims data trends from 2008 to the present, accident frequency among both 16-17 year-old males and females in the month of May is eclipsed only by the number of incidents reported in October. Complicating those situations further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that, compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seatbelt use. In 2011, only 54% of high school students reported they always wear a seatbelt when riding with someone else. The CDC also reports that teens are more likely to speed and allow less distance between vehicles. Among male drivers 15-20 years old who were involved in fatal crashes in 2010, 39% were speeding at the time of the crash and 25% had been drinking.

“Exercising caution on the roadways is something we encourage year-round, no matter the age of the driver, but extra emphasis is truly needed with teenagers,” said KFB Insurance Vice President of Claims, Greg Youngblood. “Around this time each year our agents and claims staff receive a noticeable increase in accident reports involving teenage drivers. We all think that a greater awareness of this fact just might help reduce the number of auto accidents – and injuries – involving teens.”

Parents can help. KFB Insurance believes that parents can have a positive influence on the effectiveness and safety of teenage driving. It’s not surprising that most motor vehicle crashes involving teen fatalities (55 percent) occur on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but those unfortunate situations also occur during weekdays, even if at a reduced frequency. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommends nine ways parents can help keep teen drivers safer any day of the week:

Don’t rely solely on driver education courses. The training offered by driver’s education instructors is extremely valuable toward learning the way an automobile should be operated, but it cannot be relied upon as the sole way to produce safe drivers. Teenagers’ tendencies to seek thrills and take risks may lead to poor decision making when they are behind the wheel of a car. Parents must be involved in the driver training process and share their own wisdom and experiences so that their children recognize what is truly at risk whenever pulling out into traffic.

Know the law. Parents need to know not only general driving laws, but also the additional restrictions placed on young drivers – then parents need to do their part in enforcing them.

For a quick look at the regulations in place for teen drivers in Kentucky, click here. For the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s summary of the state’s graduated licensing law, click here.

Restrict night driving. According to IIHS research, the greatest number of teen drivers’ fatal crashes occurs between 9 p.m. and midnight. As most teen driving that occurs during this time of day is recreational, many more distractions are typically present.

Restrict passengers. Multiple teens riding in a vehicle together with another teenager behind the wheel is often problematic and can result in the temptation to exhibit riskier driving behaviors than usual. The IIHS’s data shows that about six out of every 10 deaths of teenage passengers occur in crashes with teen drivers.

Supervise practice driving. Parents need to be involved in the driver training process and supervise a variety of situations as teens learn to drive. As teen drivers increase their skills, parents should offer them supervised opportunities to drive at night, in heavy traffic or on the highway – not leave these more difficult situations to be solely taught by others.

Remember that you’re a role model. Children of all ages watch their parents to learn from the example set before them, and teens do much of the same when it comes to developing driving habits. Parents who want teens to drive safely must first set a good example and drive safely themselves.

Require safety belt use. Even if teens regularly buckle up when riding or driving in a car with parents, don’t assume that the same thing occurs when they drive alone or when they are out with friends. Insist that teen drivers wear seat belts at all times.

Prohibit driving after drinking. It must be clearly communicated that it is both illegal and extremely dangerous for teenagers to drive after drinking alcohol or using any other drugs. Even small amounts of alcohol are impairing to teenagers.

Choose vehicles with safety, not image, in mind. While many teens dream of owning a sports car with flashy finishes for their first vehicle, parents should think first about safety and shy away from models that might encourage riskier driving habits. In the event of a collision, ensuring new or young drivers are in a vehicle with capable safety features is far more important than what a car or truck looks like.

This is not an exhaustive list of recommendations, but the common theme among them all is parental involvement. While accidents can occur at any time and for any number of reasons, Kentucky Farm Bureau encourages parents of teenagers to be mindful of May’s trend in increased teen accident frequency and take the steps necessary to help teens be safety conscious whenever they sit in the driver’s seat.

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