Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Rural teens twice as likey to die in crashes than city kids

Posted by lapearce on June 9, 2009

Last week Allstate released a phenomenal study that attempted to identify the most dangerous areas in the country for new drivers. In the process of their study they dispelled some myths, reinforced some facts, and shocked many people when they discovered the higher fatality rate among rural teens.

At first glance this may seem counter intuitive. City teens have to deal with far more distractions and have a lot more things to crash into than rural drivers do, and yet city teens have a fatal crash involvement rate of 25.4 per 100,000 compared to 51.5 per 100,000 for rural kids. on average The numbers vary from state to state, but everywhere they looked, teens were more likely to be killed in less populated area.

The study didn’t come to a conclusion as to why this is so, but from the information in the study a few answers come to light.

The study identified speed as the factor in the majority of deaths among teen drivers, accounting for 34.4 percent of fatalities among teens. In comparison alcohol, which parents see as a greater concern, account for 11.9 percent of fatal crashes. A trait I find in a lot of young people is that they seem to think it is ok to speed if there is no one else around. They acknowledge that this behavior is dangerous when there are other motorists, but they don’t think it is dangerous enough to avoid all together. I believe this is one of the reasons why rural areas have a higher fatality rate. There are simply more empty roads for teen drivers to test their abilities (or lack there of) on compared to crowded metropolitan areas.

Another obvious contributor to the differences between states and metropolitan areas is the level of graduated drivers license programs and seatbelt use in each state. The state with the highest fatality rate, Mississippi scored a 2 in GDL levels, and a 3 in seatbelt use while the seven safest areas all scored 4s in GDL, and the city with the lowest death rate among teens, Washington DC, scored a 4 on seatbelt use as well. Scores are on a scale of 1-4.

Comparison of Allstates fatality findings with GDL requirements by state

Comparison of Allstate's fatality findings with GDL requirements by state

The safest states for new drivers are:

  1. Washington DC
  2. New York
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New Jersey
  5. Road Island
  6. Connecticut
  7. Hawaii
  8. New Hampshire
  9. California
  10. Washington

The first thing that jumps out at me about the top ten is that most of these states have very dense population and stellar public transportation systems. DC and New York have a smaller percentage of teens driving than rural states that are far more dangerous. Fewer teens driving = fewer teens dieing.

Another shocking result from this study was that death rates increase with age, peaking at 19 before decreasing once again. It had been acknowledged for years that 16 was the most dangerous year for new drivers, but Allstate’s study showed that 19-year-olds are involved in 28.38 percent of fatal collisions among teen drivers compared to 19.47 percent for 16-year-olds. Are they driving more? Is it the fact that GDLs typically start wearing off after 16 giving teens more freedom? Allstate doesn’t explain, but it is interesting information regardless.

So what is the take away of this study?

  • Speed kills
  • Seat belts save
  • Graduated drivers licenses make an impact
  • New drivers become more dangerous before becoming less dangerous
  • States with good public transportation (i.e. fewer teen drivers) have fewer teen driving deaths

Aside from moving into the city, what can you do to give your rural driver a better chance?

  • Discuss risks on the road with your teen and make sure there are consequences if they are irresponsible
  • Mandate seatbelt use
  • If your state has poor GDL laws enforce your own
  • Consider installing a GPS unit or other monitor on your child’s car to ensure that they are not speeding
  • Take away the keys if you feel it is necessary
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