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Why So Many Teen Driving Deaths?

Why are motor vehicle crashes the number one national cause of deaths among teenagers, claiming the lives of six teens aged 16-19 every day? (Center of Disease Control and Prevention {CDV} Motor Vehicle Safety). In 2017, 3,255 teens were involved in fatal crashes (NHTSA Teen Distracted Data). A drastic need for change is revealed by realizing that in 2001's 9-11 attacks, 2,996 people were killed. Half of all teens will be involved in a vehicle crash before graduating from high school (National Safety Council)! According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, a 16-year-old is 20 times more likely to be killed than an adult. Why are there so many teenage deaths? One reason is there are less driver education programs in our public schools. Another is that teens in SC and many other states can get their driver's license at age 17 without driver education (public) or driver training (private). Such reasons are why only half of the teens take driver education or driver training (Nebraska Safety Council). There needs to be education for good teenage driving rather than just a phased-in licensing period. Teens need to be taught proper skills and attitudes (Driving Skills for Life). Better educated teens will make our roadways safer.

Why are SC legislators using a proviso to waive the law that driver education must be offered in high schools? Such hinders families with low income from having reasonably priced public-school driver education, and limits them to having to pay high prices of $300-500 or more for private driver training. This causes teens to wait until 17 without such education to get a driver's license. The driving risks are extreme, and the crash rate is predictably the highest within the first three months after getting their driver's license. They are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash (or near miss) at this age (2018 National Institute of Health study). Driving constitutes the greatest hazard to survival through which American youth must pass successfully to reach adulthood.

Why should we be so concerned about teens not taking driver education or driver training? A teen is almost ten times more likely to get into a crash the first year on the road (Teen-Driving-Straight-Facts). Teen drivers, per mile driven, have crash rates four times those of drivers 20 and older (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety). Every day six teens aged 16-19 die in crashes (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Every 12 minutes someone dies in a car crash and every 10 seconds someone is injured and taken to an emergency department (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control). Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes mainly because of their immaturity, lack of skills and lack of experience (NHTSA). There are things that can be done to make teenage drivers safer. It starts by providing better driver and traffic safety education for teenagers. Driver Education/Driver Training is important to educate teenagers in vehicle and road safety before they get a driver's license. Such will help our youth to live to become the leaders of tomorrow. We know that reading, writing and arithmetic are important. However, what good are they if teenagers do not know the physics of a vehicle and end up killing themselves? It can be argued that driving is the most important skill in contemporary society, insofar as the threat to human life is concerned. No doubt it is too important to learn by chance in a haphazard way (Automotive Safety Foundation and the Highway Users Federation). Raise the age for SC teenagers to 18 or 19 for them to get a driver's license without taking driver education/driver training. This would encourage teens to take driver education/driver training. Also, waive the SC proviso so all SC high schools must offer at least one class of driver education.

May we as South Carolinians encourage South Carolina to do her part to require that teenagers take driver education/driver training so they can do their part in making traffic safety first and making traffic safety last!

Joe Sabbadino
Driver Educator
President, SCDTSEA