Thursday, May 04, 2006

70% teen fatal crashes not intoxicated

At the pre-prom crash reenactment Wednesday the last speaker, Michael Karlin, (see Brakes for Brett), made the point that “only” 30% of teen fatal auto crashes involve alcohol and/or drugs (which is the opposite of adult statistics).

70% of teen fatal car crashes are not related to driving intoxicated or riding with someone who is intoxicated. Those crashes involve distraction, risk taking, bad choices, and, yes, some bad luck.

While it its important that we target and work to decrease underage drinking and its toll on teens (lethal and non-lethal), we must also figure out how to impact the causes of that 70% of fatal crashes especially. We need to educate/inform teens (and parents and the community) about what causes these crashes and how to prevent them from happening. That education/information must start well before teens start driving, it must be repeated, it must be realistic (not “scared straight”), it ought to be peer driven (and possibly peer presented), it must be someone with credibility (to the teens) and who has been there, and it must have demonstrated benefit (not just some cool, feel good rah-rah programming that looks good to parents or faculty). We ought to ask teens what they think will work.

Also, some of the prevention choices will need to be statutory and they will be tough to enact, e.g. stiffer penalties for 1st time offenses for “new” drivers and more restrictions on drivers less than 18 years old.

Teens are dying while using the most lethal equipment available in our society (the automobile). That dying must be stopped.

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