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It’s prom and graduation season

By Ken Gibson on May 4, 2018

How can you keep your teens safer on the road?

Prom and graduation season is here. Although I’ve personally been spared having my daughter go on a date yet (she’s still in elementary school!), teens throughout Virginia are are eagerly diving into these rites of passage.

But what many soon-to-be graduates don’t realize is that, along with the privileges and freedoms of being an adult come some grave responsibilities—especially when it comes to getting behind the wheel. And statistically, they’re entering dangerous waters.

The highest rate of teen traffic deaths in the United States happens during prom and graduation season — April through July — according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The fatal crash rate per mile driven is disproportionately higher for teens than for any other U.S. age group, also according to the IIHS.

Who’s at the highest risk?

The fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16- to 19-year-olds is three times higher than even drivers 20 years and older. And the fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16- to 17-year-olds is twice as high as for 18- to 19-year-olds. These statistics seem to confirm that lack of driving experience is a major factor in teen traffic accidents.

Another interesting statistic is that teen drivers are more likely to be distracted and cause a crash if they are accompanied by passengers, as reported by TIME. Specifically, male teen drivers are six times more likely to perform illegal maneuvers when passengers are in the car. This suggests that certain teen tendencies, like showing off, may be significant factors in some teen traffic accidents.

What about teens in Eastern Virginia?

Locally, we’ve seen 23 traffic accidents involving teens in Gloucester County alone — just in 2018 so far. Thankfully, most were property-damage-only crashes, in which no one was injured. But it’s only May, and we’re just now entering prom and graduation season.

Last year in 2017, more than 95 teen driving accidents happened in Gloucester; while Middlesex and Mathews each had 18.

So, let’s all do our part and keep our Middle Peninsula teens on the “safe and narrow” road!

What contributes to teen accidents?

While poor judgment and lack of driving experience are major reasons teens are more likely to be in traffic accidents, other factors are also at work:

Young adulthood is when many people start to experiment with alcohol, and sometimes drugs. Impaired driving is dangerous for drivers of any age, but it is particularly unsafe for young people, who are more sensitive to alcohol and may not know how much is too much.

Another major contributor to the high rate of teen accidents is distracted driving. Distracted driving includes adjusting the radio, eating or drinking, looking at billboards or other roadside attractions, looking at a map or directions, and applying makeup.

While distracted driving has been a hazard since the car was invented, today’s drivers have an added source of distraction: technology. People are addicted to their cellphones—particularly young people. Anyone who’s been around teenagers knows that most are constantly on their phones—talking, texting, using social media, watching videos, playing games, taking pictures, and more. All of these activities are serious distractions for drivers.

What about teen cellphone use?

Let’s look at some scary statistics about teen drivers and cellphone use:

  • 60 percent of teen traffic accidents are caused by distracted driving, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
  • 94 percent of teen drivers recognize the dangers of texting while driving, but 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway, according to a poll by AAA.
  • Of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents, at least 21 percent were distracted by their cellphones.
  • Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into traffic accidents or near-accidents while talking on their phones or texting.

Good news/bad news about teens and texting

Texting while driving is obviously something that no one wants our teens to do.

And we do have some good news about this issue: teens ages 16 to 18 are actually the age group least likely to text and drive, according to EndDD.org. Maybe this is because it is illegal in Virginia (and many states) for teens to use any device in any way (even a hands-free phone) while driving.

But there’s also bad news: as teens get older, their amount of texting and other distracted driving behaviors go through the roof.

So how can you keep your teens safer?

  • Have frank talks with your children about the dangers of this activity, starting at a young age.
  • Set a good example. (You shouldn’t text while driving either.) Teens who see their parents driving while distracted are much more likely to do it themselves.
  • Use a contract for safe driving with teens (like our Keys to Safe Driving agreement). Have your teen driver sign it and keep it as a reminder in the car. Set inflexible consequences for breaking the rules.
  • Install a text-blocking app on your young people’s phones.
  • If you have any doubts, ask to see their phones after they’ve been out driving.

We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys are parents ourselves. We know it’s difficult each time your son or daughter gets behind the wheel without you. That’s why we’ve launched our Texts=Wrecks Campaign. We want to keep all Virginia drivers and passengers safer on the roadways.

If you have any questions or want to get involved in our accident prevention work, call our Gloucester office at (804) 413-6777. And if you or a loved one are injured by a driver whom you suspect was driving while distracted, call our office to find out about your options.

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Community service

Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.