Fatal motor vehicle crashes are by far the leading cause of death among people 13 to 19 years of age. The accident risk among teenage drivers is particularly high during the first months of them receiving their license. This underlines the importance of provinces such as Alberta which have adopted graduated licensing requirements.

Teenage Motor Vehicle Collision Rates

How do teenage fatal accident rates compare with rates among drivers of other ages? Teenagers drive less than all but the oldest people, but their numbers of fatal accident cases and deaths are disproportionately high. The fatal accident rate per kilometre driven for 16 to 17 year olds is about three times the rate for drivers 20 and older.

Fatal accidents involving teenage drivers are more likely to be attributed to driver error compared with the fatal accidents of adults ages 30 to 59. Teenagers’ fatal collisions are more likely to involve speeding and nighttime driving and to be in single-vehicle accidents.

The old saying that teenagers feel invulnerable is true as studies show that fatal collisions are a result of young drivers underestimating the dangers on the road combined with overestimating their own driving abilities.

Teenage Motor Vehicle Collision and Alcohol

Surprisingly alcohol is not that important of a factor in teenager fatal collisions. Young drivers are less likely than adults to drive after drinking alcohol, but their crash risk is substantially higher when they do drink alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol can affect teenage drivers. This is why it is very good legislation that Alberta passed zero tolerance alcohol levels for graduated licensed drivers. Nevertheless the City of Grande Prairie recently suffered a multiple teenager fatality collision which shook the community to its core.

One question that is on parent’s minds is what type of vehicle is recommended for teenage drivers? In 2014 many vehicles now have crash prevention technology, and you may wish to consider buying a new vehicle for your teenager and you driving the older one. As well, larger vehicles generally offer better protection than smaller vehicles, despite the fact that small vehicles get five-star ratings. It is important to understand crash test results are from crashing into a barrier. However, in the real world when a small vehicle crashes into a large vehicle, basic physics laws dictate that you are better off in the bigger and heavier vehicle. Parents should also avoid high horsepower models that might encourage teenagers to speed.

What about driver education programs for teenagers? Surprisingly, formal evaluations of driver education programs indicate little or no effect in reducing crashes for teenagers. Furthermore, if the driver education is offered in schools, like it used to be in Alberta, it has the unintended negative effect on increasing motor vehicle collisions by encouraging early licensing of 16 and 17 year olds. The net result is more collisions per capita among teenagers.

As well, there are programs that offer advanced skid control training and other kinds of advanced skill training in driving vehicles. Studies have shown that these have the unintended consequence again of increasing crashes by encouraging young drivers to be overconfident, leading them to take unnecessary risks.

Perhaps one thing you could do as a parent is to utilize current technology as there are now in-vehicle monitoring devices that allow parents to more fully supervise their children’s driving and to keep young drivers safe when the parents are not in the vehicle. The in-vehicle monitoring devices can monitor driving and give feedback to teenagers and their parents. A study found that seat belt use increased when in-vehicle monitoring was undertaken. And when the vehicle gave additional alerts for seat belt use, seat belt use increased again. Furthermore, there were reductions in speeding when teenagers received alerts believing their speeding behaviour would not be reported to parents if corrected and also when parents were being notified of speeding behaviour. Thus monitoring technologies can reduce risky driving behaviours and even though one may object that young teenagers should be responsible themselves and this is a case of “helicopter” parenting or over-parenting, the tragic statistics on teenage fatalities proves that our governing bodies have given too much responsibility to teenagers who cannot handle it. Therefore, as a parent you have the option of intervening with modern technology.

Handel Law Firm is Alberta’s personal injury law firm serving the smaller communities of Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie. Call now Toll Free: 1-877-844-6910