Like any other drivers, teenagers face a variety of risks when they get behind the wheel – especially if they drink and drive, speed, or fail to use a seat belt.
But, surprisingly, the biggest risk factor for teenage drivers is driving after dark, according to a recent study conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute.
Researchers who studied traffic fatality rates from 1999 to 2008, found that despite an overall drop in traffic deaths during that time period, nighttime fatalities actually increased. A closer look at the numbers revealed that, among drivers over the age of 20, alcohol was to blame for the proportional increase in deaths, but that wasn’t the case for teen drivers.
So, what accounted for the rise in teen nighttime traffic deaths? Researchers pointed to one other crucial factor – the huge surge in cell phone use by teenagers during the time period when the 10-year study was conducted.
The study’s authors surmise that today’s teenagers, having grown up with cell phones, are often so comfortable with a cell phone in their hands that they can develop a false sense of security and figure they can easily text or talk on a cell phone while driving. In fact, one out of every four teenage drivers admits to texting while driving. Unfortunately, that’s a decision that leads to disastrous consequences.
In West Virginia, drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner’s permit or an intermediate license are banned from cell phone use of any kind while operating a motor vehicle.