Teen Driver Safety: 6 major dangers affecting teen drivers

October 24, 2018 | 9:14 am


Motor vehicle accidents — they’re the leading cause of injury and death among teens.

In fact, teenage drivers have the highest rate of motor vehicle accidents among all age groups in the United States. In California, the statistics can be scary. Our state saw 73,736 crashes in 2016 involving drivers 16 to 20 years old, according to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. In those crashes, 437 people were killed.

Experts say it’s because teenage drivers are inherently immature, lack experience, engage in risky behaviors, and often think of themselves as invincible. For these reasons, it’s important to talk to teen drivers about the responsibilities, rules, and consequences that come with getting behind the steering wheel.

For National Teen Driver Safety Week, observed Oct. 21-27 this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind adults and teenagers on what we can do to make sure all drivers get home safe.

With the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are six major dangers affecting teen drivers:

  • Drive sober: In 2016, nearly one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking alcohol despite the fact that it’s illegal everywhere to drink if you’re under 21 throughout the United States. Make it clear that driving impaired by any substance — alcohol or drugs — is deadly and against the law.
  • Buckle up: Roughly half of those 16 to 20 years old who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 weren’t wearing seat belts. In 85 percent of the cases when the teen driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt, their passengers were not wearing seat belts either. Tell your teen driver they must buckle up, every ride, every time.
  • No distractions: About 10 percent of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. Explain the dangers of driving distracted by phones and texting or anything else, and that driving attentively is essential for safe driving.
  • No speeding: Speeding was a factor in about one-third of all fatal teen driver crashes. Faster speeds rob inexperienced teen drivers of the extra reaction time they may need to avoid a crash. Emphasize that they must obey posted speed limits.
  • Passengers: Passengers can serve as another distraction for inexperienced teen drivers. That’s why many states have graduated driver licensing restrictions, which prohibit any passengers in vehicles with teen drivers.
  • Drowsy driving: Between school, sports, activities, and part-time jobs, a teen’s schedule can cut into much needed sleep, which can lead to drowsy driving. People are most likely to feel drowsy between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m., which is generally when teens are driving home from school. Explain the dangers of driving drowsy before your teen driver takes the wheel.

As for parents, caregivers and adults, keep these points in mind as well:

  • Graduated Driver License: As mentioned above already, “GDL” laws set limits on teen drivers for safety. In California, there are restrictions on driving late at night during the first year they have a license. Learn about all of the GDL laws in California here.
  • Lead by example: Practice safe driving yourself. You’re a role model — when a teen driver sees you obeying the rules of the road, they get the message. Also, have practice driving sessions with your teen.
  • Set ground rules: No cell phones, no passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, no drowsy driving, and always buckle up. No keys until they know the rules. Establish consequences you will enforce if your teen breaks the rules. One suggestion is to draw up a parent-teen driver agreement — a contract that spells out hours the teen may drive, who pays for the gas and insurance, rules for major driving distractions such as passengers, and anything else the parent wants to include.
  • With driving comes great responsibility: Remind your teen that driving requires your full attention. Texts and phone calls can wait. Teach them about zero-tolerance laws, and the consequences they face for driving after drinking or using drugs. Urge them to never ride with someone who has been drinking or using drugs.

National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great reminder to discuss safe driving, but you should keep the conversation going year-round. You’ll not only better protect your young driver; you’ll be contributing to safer roads in your community.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at the website chainlaw.com.

Don’t snooze on the dangers of driving while drowsy

November 9, 2016 | 9:05 am


It’s a fact — driving drowsy is dangerous.

It’s estimated that 300,000 crashes every year involve drowsy driving, which also contributes to up to 6,400 deaths per year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The National Sleep Foundation is raising awareness of the danger of driving while drowsy, and educating drivers on sleep safety in an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to ultimately save lives.

The annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week campaign provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road. And nearly one in four adults in the United States say they know someone personally who has fallen asleep at the wheel.

“Drowsiness impairs driving performance and reaction time,” said William Horrey, research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in The Detroit News. “When our brains are tired, our attention, judgment and ability to act are greatly impacted, which has the potential for disaster on the road, particularly if there’s inclement weather or a critical situation requiring quick response.”

In fact, a new study by AAA showed that drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving, and that one in five fatal crashes is caused because a driver involved did not have enough sleep.

 

Drowsy Driving Safety 

So what can you do to prevent drowsy driving? Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of National Sleep Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests the following:

  • Get enough sleep before you drive. It’s recommended adult get seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
  • If you’re planning a long road trip, make sure you plan properly for rest stops — a break every 100 miles or every two hours on the road is suggested.
  • Also, try to travel during times you are normally awake.
  • If you have been up for 24 hours or more, do not drive. Period.
  • Drink caffeine if you feel sleepy, and see how you feel first before getting behind the wheel.
  • If you feel too sleepy, find someplace safe to take a nap or sleep, or stay the night somewhere. After, you’ll feel energized and ready to drive!

“If you’re tired, please don’t get behind the wheel. Think of your safety and your passengers, but also of the safety of others on the road,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn. “And if you get tired while driving, please pull over and find a safe place to sleep.”

The Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm recently resolved a wrongful death lawsuit in which a driver fell asleep at wheel, jumped a curb and struck a jogger as he ran on the sidewalk. The jogger was also a husband and father of a little girl. That case settled for $6 million.

 

Drowsy Driving Research 

SleepJunkie, a website focused on improving sleeping habits, recently conducted a study to understand which roads, states, and times of day have the most sleep-related fatalities. The website analyzed six years of fatal driving accidents from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data to illustrate the deadly effects of driving while drowsy.

The study found that drowsy driving-related roadway fatalities spike in the early morning hours, with 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., marking the deadliest span. The hours just before and after — 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. — were the second and third most fatal times. This dispels the myth that the threat of falling asleep at the wheel happens most in the nighttime hours.

Busy interstates accounted for the most sleep-related driving deaths compared to other roadways. Utility vehicles were involved in the highest percentage of fatal sleepy-driver accidents with pickup trucks and vans next on the list, the study found. Dawn light and foggy skies contributed the most to fatal sleep-related accidents.

Three of the top five most dangerous counties for fatal drowsy-driving accidents were in California, although Kern County was not one of them. They included San Bernardino County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County.

———

If you or someone you know is hurt in a motor vehicle accident — whether it’s in a car, truck, bicycle, while walking or by a big rig — call the injury and accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.