Although car crashes remain the leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers, the number of teen driver-related deaths fell 47 percent in the last six years, according to a new report by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm.
The report delivered some other encouraging news.
- In 2011, 54 percent of teen passengers reported "always" buckling up.
- From 2008 to 2011, the number of teen passengers who were killed in crashes while not wearing seat belts decreased 23 percent.
- In those same years, the number of teen passengers driven by a peer who had been drinking declined 14 percent.
"When most people think about those affected by teen driver crashes, they think of teens behind the wheel. This report includes encouraging news about teen passengers, who are often left out of the teen driver safety picture," report lead author Dr. Dennis Durbin said in a press statement. "When you see the needle move, as we have in this report, it's time to apply the gas on programs that encourage safe teen passenger behaviors, as well as those that address what causes teens to crash."
Durbin says the greatest potential to further drive down the teen crash rate is in reducing distraction from passengers and technology, increasing skills in scanning, hazard detection, and speed management; and increasing seat belt use to improve a teen's chance of survival in a crash.
Although the report shows progress for teen-driver safety efforts, risky behaviors, such as texting or emailing while driving, driving after drinking, and low seat belt use, remain. A third of teens say they have recently texted or emailed while driving.
The report, third in an annual series, provides evidence to support stronger graduated driver licensing programs, which let teens gain experience under lower-risk conditions. Comprehensive programs include at least 50 hours of adult-supervised practice under varied conditions, limit passengers for the first year of independent driving, restrict unsupervised nighttime driving, require seat belt use for the driver and all passengers, and prohibit cell phone use while driving.