The horrific accident in Ohio that killed six teenagers is every parent’s nightmare. It’s a tragic reminder that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for US teens. The CDC reports that per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16-19 are more likely than drivers aged 20 and over to be in a fatal crash. Indeed, all the passengers of the Ohio SUV were aged 14-19; the driver was 19.
We don’t know all the facts yet. But in many ways the details we do know fit the all-too-common risk factors that contribute to teen accidents:
- Driving with other teenagers – Driving with another teen increases the chance of a crash – the risk multiplies with each additional teen. In Ohio, eight teenage friends piled into a car meant to seat five.
- Speeding – The driver was speeding down a two-lane road when she lost control in a curve and the car smashed into the left side guard rail and flipped into a pond.
- Not wearing seatbelts – Not wearing seatbelts turns accidents into fatalities. Authorities believe few or none of the Ohio teens were wearing a seatbelt. Alarmingly, only 54% of high school students report they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.
The weather does not appear to be a factor, and authorities are awaiting toxicology reports to determine if alcohol or drugs were involved – also risk factors.
Parents can make a difference
In many ways, teenagers engage in similar risky behaviors as adults – the problem is they have less maturity and experience behind the wheel to handle the consequences.