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The main causes of teenage car accidents

Last week we spoke about how car accidents are the number one cause of death for teenagers and that drinking and driving is the cause of around 40 percent of fatal teenage car accidents. On a similar note, a recent study that examined the causes of all teenage car accidents fatal or not shows the majority of teenage car crashes are caused by inexperience and not bad behavior. When comparing the two statistics perhaps we can conclude that alcohol is one of the dividing factors between fatal and non-fatal teenage car accidents.

The new study that looked at the causes of all teenage car accidents was authored by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance. The study found that over 75 percent of teen car crashes were caused by a critical driving error. A critical driving error is defined as a mistake that occurs immediately before the car accident. The director of the Center for the Injury Research says the study is seminal because it shows that teen crashes occur because they lack the requisite skill set to be behind the wheel and not because they are behaving badly.

The study identified three common causes of teen car accidents. The three common causes are: not sufficiently observing the driving environment or "scanning"; being distracted by someone or something inside or outside of the vehicle; and traveling too fast for conditions but not just driving over the speed limit. An example of insufficient scanning would be not observing oncoming traffic far enough ahead while completing a left turn in an intersection.

The study also offers practical tips to parents regarding driver's education based on the three common mistakes. Parents should help their teen drivers identify appropriate speeds for different road conditions including weather and traffic. Teens should reduce distractions by limiting the use of electronic devices and distracting conversation while in vehicle. Finally, parents should help teens develop their observational eye by helping teens look beyond the car in front of them.

Source: HealthDay, "Driver errors explain most teen crashes, experts say," Kathleen Doheny, 4/12/11

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