Why traffic crashes, are the #1 cause of death for teens?
Research shows it takes new drivers about five years to reach the driving ability of the average experienced driver. In fact, nearly half of all new drivers will either receive a traffic violation or be involved in a collision during their first 12 months of driving. Many of these collisions will result in injuries or fatalities.Each year in Canada more than 3,000 people die and more than 200,000 are injured (25,000 seriously) in motor vehicle crashes. Drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 are especially vulnerable. According to transport Canada, in 1996, 380 young drivers were killed and more than 29,000 seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes. The majority of those crashes occurred during day light hours in good weather conditions, therefore driving is really risky business for teens.
The Leading Cause of Death for Teens—Motor Vehicle Crashes
The leading cause of death for young people 16 to 20 years old is motor vehicle crashes. The teen traffic crash death rate going high and higher, unless effective measures are implemented, it can be expected that teen deaths will increase commensurately.
Effectiveness of Safety Belts in Reducing Injury and Fatalities in Motor Vehicle Crashes
Safety belts reduce the chances of being killed or seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash by almost 50 percent, because they prevent ejection from the vehicle, spread forces from the crash over a wide area of the body, allow the body to slow down gradually, and protect the head and spinal cord from serious injury. Most teens are taught this in driver's education classes and are well aware of the benefits of wearing safety belts.
Almost 85 percent of all medical costs for crash victims fall on society, and not on the individuals involved. Medical costs for unbelted crash victims are 50 percent higher than for those who are belted. Employer health care spending on crash injuries is nine billion dollars annually.
Attitudes of Teens Regarding Safety
Teens were also more likely to agree that a crash close to home was usually "not as serious" (30%), that wearing a safety belt makes them "worry more about being in a collision" (27%), and that they would feel "self-conscious if they were going against the group norm in wearing safety belts" (30%) than older drivers.
Research also shows that when a driver of a motor vehicle wears a safety belt, a toddler in that vehicle also is restrained 86 percent of the time. However, when the driver is not restrained, toddlers in that vehicle are only restrained 24 percent of the time. Thus, parents play an important role in conditioning youth to wear safety belts. The percentage of teens who say in surveys that they "rarely or never wore safety belts" ranges from 8 to 27 percent, depending upon the province. This generation of teenagers mostly has been brought up in child safety and booster seats, and has been exposed to safety belt use laws and education.
Socioeconomic Impact of Non-Belt Use among Teens
While it is important that people of all ages wear safety belts, it is especially important for teenagers because their crash rate is extremely high. Every 6 minutes, someone is injured in a traffic crash and every 10 hours, someone is killed in a traffic crash. Safety belts presently save about 11,000 lives a year in Canada. Wearing a safety belt is the best protection against drunk, tired, or aggressive drivers.
Theories on Why Teens Lose Their Lives in Collisions
There are many theories presented as to why teens have low safety rates and high traffic-crash rates. Briefly, among the most frequently cited theories are the following:
- Inexperience: It takes time to learn how to drive a vehicle, how to drive under various circumstances and conditions, and how to react in emergency situations. Thus, the high crash involvement rate for teens.
- Immaturity: Teens lack the maturity of most adults. Studies show that youth are more likely to engage in riskier behaviors while driving.
- Immortality: Teens tend to underestimate risks of driving and crashing, and exhibit an "invincible" attitude. They do not think they will get into a crash, so they do not think they need protection if they are involved in a crash.
- Emotionality: This trait is sometimes termed as "raging hormones." Teens' emotions affect their thinking and subsequent behavior, such as "forgetting" to wear safety belts.
- Sensation Seeking: Many teens are adventurous and tend to seek out excitement. Not wearing a safety belt is a thrill to some of them.
- Risk Taking: Many teens take greater risks in all areas of life than their adult counterparts. Because teens do not yet understand the risks involved in certain behaviors, nor the potential consequences, they often tend to act unwisely.
- Power of Friends: Teens, especially high school students, are greatly influenced by their peers.
- Power of Parents: Parental permissiveness or strictness could be a factor related to changing teens' behavior. Teens with parents who are persistent and monitor teen belt use are more likely to buckle up.
· Distractions: There is some evidence that teens are more easily distracted while driving, especially when they have other teen passengers.
Vehicle strategies: The effects of reminders, safety belt use monitoring devices, ignition interlock devices and improvements in comfort and convenience on teen belt use need to be explored.
Other public health interventions: Information on the effects of other public health interventions that have worked to change the risky behavior of teens, such as antismoking campaigns, safe sex, and zero tolerance for drinking and driving, may be important to increase teen safety belt use. With this as a background, there is an urgent need for an accurate definition of the teen safety belt use problem, a summary of the various programs and approaches that have been conducted to increase safety belt use by teens, and recommendations for future research and programs that have the potential to increase safety.
A comprehensive review of the scientific literature, provincial and Federal Government reports, and other sources of information was conducted to determine the magnitude of the problem of teen safety belt use and to identify and summarize programs, interventions, and strategies that can potentially increase safety belt use by teens.
Highly publicized and visible increased enforcement of safety belt laws has been shown to increase safety belt use in the general population. It is reasonable to assume that teen belt use would increase concomitantly.