Crash factors sadly familiar in this teen fatality

A news story about a July 23 teen-driving death caught my eye because the circumstances were sadly familiar.
   The victim, a 16-year-old girl from Ohio, had just gotten her license this year. She lost control of her 1999 SUV and hit a guardrail, was ejected, and died at the scene.
   PEMCO knows that accidents involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers follow a pattern. Most teen fatalities don’t involve alcohol or drugs; neither did this one. They’re usually one-car accidents where the driver veers off the road; that's what happened in the Ohio crash.
   Teen fatalities typically involve older, smaller cars; this vehicle was 14 years old. And although SUVS are not small, they’re particularly tricky for inexperienced new drivers because an SUV’s center of gravity makes it top-heavy.
   Teen fatalities often occur on two-lane roads, like the Ohio crash. And – inexplicably – seatbelts often aren’t worn. 
  The Ohio news report didn’t specifically say the driver wore no seat belt, but she was ejected from her vehicle, an unlikely result if she were belted in.
   Recently, this blog noted that teen crashes spike in the summer months, when teens have more free time that’s spent driving around with no particular place to go.
   Yet other common crash factors were not noted in the Ohio tragedy: teenage passengers, late at night, distractions in the car, and speeding.
   I know I’m reading something into this story that might not even apply, but if this fatality did involve an unbelted driver, I’m bewildered. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that teenage seat-belt use falls below that of adults.
   How can this be?
   Public service ads have pounded the messages into us for decades: Seat belts save lives. Buckle up, America – every trip, every time. Click it or ticket.
   And eons before that: Buckle up for safety, buckle up! Show the world you care by the belt you wear.
   Crash results have proven what life-savers seat belts can be.
   And safety aside, the fine for not wearing restraints should be enough to compel most people to buckle up. Read The Columbus Dispatch article about the Ohio accident, and watch a locally produced Click It Or Ticket TV ad.

by  Jon Osterberg

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