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Teen Driver Safety Week: younger drivers pose risks

The third full week in October marks National Teen Driver Safety Week. Because car accidents are the top cause of death for people between 15 and 18, authorities are encouraging parents to use this week as an opportunity to talk to their teenagers about safe driving habits.

However, it is important for all Louisianans to remember that thousands of people die each year in crashes involving teenage drivers, and not all of these victims are either the teen drivers themselves or their passengers. For example, in 2017, over 3,250 drivers involved in a fatal car accident were between 15 and 19 years old. While this number is actually a marked improvement over the same numbers in years past, teen drivers are still, statistically speaking, more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than are their adult counterparts.

Teens get into more accidents for a number of reasons. Overall, teen drivers tend to lack the experience and good judgment that is necessary for avoiding accidents. This is one reason why most states now insist on teenagers getting their driving privileges gradually and as they demonstrate that they can be safe drivers.

Distracted driving is also particularly problematic among teenagers. Not surprisingly, texting and driving and cell phone use are common temptations for teen driver, even though it has been demonstrated time and again that such activities are dangerous, especially among drivers who may have slower reaction times due to inexperience. Moreover, for teen drivers, even blasting the music too loudly or having lots of friends in the car can be a significant and dangerous distraction.

The best thing to ensure that teens drive safely is for their parents or guardians to set a good example and to make sure that they are firm with their own expectations about safety. However, holding teen drivers legally accountable for any injuries they cause is also an important step.