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Speeding remains top cause of teen highway fatalities, GHSA report shows

Posted On Wed, June 26, 2013

With classes dismissed for the summer and more people hitting the streets to take advantage of the summer while it's here, there's typically a major increase in the amount of traffic volume between June and September. In fact, according to analysis from AAA, nearly 41 million Americans are expected to take to the road during the July 4th holiday weekend alone.

Many of those doing so will be teenagers and while accident fatalities among young motorists have diminished compared to where conditions were in prior years, driving at an excessive rate of speed continues to be a leading cause of fatalities among people who are traditionally the road's most inexperienced motorists.

According to new analysis from the Governors Highway Safety Commission, the share of crashes among teens wherein speeding was a factor increased over the past 10 years. In 2000, the rate was 30 percent, but it has since jumped to 33 percent as of 2011 - the latest year for which data is available.

Susan Ferguson, author of the GHSA report and former senior vice president of research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, noted that the most important thing parents and safety officials can do is to hammer home the message that speed kills.

"Curbing teen speeding is vital since no other age group has a higher crash risk," said Ferguson. "Speeding is a common factor in the fatal crashes of teen male and female drivers."

She added that driving at a level higher than the posted limit is particularly common among teenage males, in the late evening hours and often in the presence of others who are in their age range. Indeed, when there are three or more teens in a vehicle driven by a 16-year-old male, close to 50 percent of all crashes that turn out to be deadly are related to speed.

Kellie Clapper, assistant vice president of public affairs at State Farm, which also contributed to the study's analysis, noted that graduated driver licensing laws have helped diminish the risks associated with speeding among teens by making certain requirements of them before they're granted full driving privileges.

"These laws help keep young drivers safe by limiting their exposure to conditions when speeding is likely to occur," said Clapper.

Teen crashes can be avoided with parents' involvement
Still, parents can do a great deal of good for their kids by establishing some rules that they ought to be required to follow if they want driving privileges. Jim Donelon, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, noted that parents need to make their teens aware that they need to live up to certain expectations for them to be trusted with the family car.

"The good news is that by setting boundaries, we are making the roads safer for everyone," said Donelon.

He added that parents' establishing rules of conduct can go a long way toward diminishing the number of accidents caused by speeding.

One way of going about this is establishing a curfew. NAIC data indicates that more than 40 percent of the teen auto deaths that occur happen between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Additionally, while having a cellphone in the car may be advisable because it enables teens to get in touch with family should they break down, parents may want to require that it not be on while driving. Whether talking or texting, cellphone use dramatically raises the risk of getting into an accident.

Some safety experts recommend that parents take advantage of insurers' user-based insurance programs. With these policies, motorists attach a tracking device to their vehicle, which enables providers to determine how safely a customer is driving. These can also help parents lower their auto insurance rates for their teens, depending on mileage and crash avoidance.

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