Danger time for teenage drivers

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Ah summer! A golden time for driving, as roads are clear of ice, snow, and the many other potentially dangerous weather conditions associated with winter. Right?

Well, no, actually – especially if you are a teenage driver.

Commercial vehicle operators should car about this because – as everyone well knows – they and teenage drivers share the very same asphalt ribbons, often at high speed. So if big rig operators know that summer is the time of maximum danger for teenage drivers, maybe such forewarning can help prevent some crashes.

The data on teenage driver crash patterns comes from a survey commissioned by Ford Motor Co. and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland.

In their analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data from 2007 to 2011, summer months had the highest number of teen driver fatalities.

For 2011, the latest data available, there were 358 teen driver fatalities in traffic crashes during June, July and August, as compared to 271 teen driver fatalities during the winter months of December, January and February.

Yet Ford’s survey of 500 teens and 500 parents shows more than half of teenagers (66%) and parents (58%) believe winter is the most dangerous season for teenage drivers – and a deadly misconception at that.

Here are some other interesting findings related not just to teenage drivers but their behavior of their parents whilst operating a motor vehicle as well:

  • Some 76% of teens and 83% of parents consider the dangers of distracted driving to be comparable to drunk driving
  • Yet despite reporting lower rates of the riskiest behaviors overall, parents are 40% more likely to check their phones while driving than their teenage children (28% of parents compared to 20% of teens)
  • Parents are concerned about their teens having safe driving habits, but only 26% of those surveyed use a safety device – such as a driver monitoring system or cell phone blocking software – to reinforce safe driving habits among their children
  • 62% of teen drivers admit to being distracted by others in the car
  • 61% of teens admit to eating or drinking while driving
  • 42% of teens say they turn up the radio so loud they can't hear vehicles nearby

Ford and Penn also discovered some interesting differences in the perception of driver behavior between teenage boys and girls:

  • Boys are considered to be more aggressive drivers, according to 87% of girls, 78% of parents and 73% of boys
  • Boys are considered more likely to drink and drive, according to 80% of girls, 72% of boys and 72% of parents
  • Boys are considered more likely to speed, according to 81%t of girls, 77% of boys and 75% of parents
  • Yet girls are considered more likely to use their phones while driving, according to 81% of boys, 78% of girls and 67% of parents

Yet will any of this information help improve driver behavior for teenagers and adults alike going forward?

Ford, for one, is trying to do just that via its Driving Skills for Life or “DSFL” program, attempting to double the number of students it reaches to some 40,000 this year, including visits to at least 40 high schools in Arizona, California, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia bringing “real-world” driving situations in a controlled environment to teens using specially equipped vehicles.

The OEM said these hands-on clinics offer professional drivers and activities that build skills in five key areas: driver distraction, speed management, space management, vehicle handling and hazard recognition.

Let’s hope such programs find success, for it’ll make everyone’s life on the highway – truckers and teenagers alike – that much safer. 

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