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Staying Safe with Teenage Drivers

Staying Safe with Teenage Drivers

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Nadine Wimmer ReportingCar crash rates for teenagers are concerning as it is, but there's a trend that has safety advocates and parents worried.

Used to be the most dangerous driver behind the wheel was a teenage boy. But girls are now catching up.

Crystal Scott’s crash was jotted on her calendar, "ooops"... rear-ended another car--coincidentally, driven by her mother.

Crystal Scott: “They’re all, ‘We’re going to have to call your mom,’ and I said, ‘She’s right there.’”

Crystal is part of a growing statistic. According to the Intermountain Injury Control Research Center, Utah girls were involved in 43-percent of teenage crashes in 1992; 45-percent by 1997; 47-percent in 2002.

While fatal crashes have declined 40-percent among boys in the last decades, they've gone down only 9-percent among girls. Even insurance companies recognize girls are a growing risk, as Crystal's mom discovered when she added her daughter to the policy.

Jacquie Bergstrom, Mom: “They said right now female drivers are lower, but that’s going to change.”

We wanted to have a first-hand experience driving with a teenager, in the safest way possible, at the U of U's driving simulator lab. It's as close to the real thing as it gets.

The simulator measures driving performance with distractions. Within two minutes Crytal hit objects. Her friends gave it a try and had the same problem.

We include a cell phone in the exercise because it's not distractions on the road, but in the car that keep these teens busy – everything from cell phones to make up to radios to talking with friends in the back seat.

Dave Strayer, U of U Researcher: “There are a lot of things they do behind the wheel that probably make them more susceptible to being distracted than an adult in their 30’s.”

Researchers have already applied for a grant to study this very issue; one thing they hope it will do is influence car manufacturers.

Michael Kramer, Adjunct Research Instructor, U of U: “A number of safety advocates are concerned because car manufacturers are adding GPS and all sorts of other things that will distract people.”

They also hope their research will prove to teens and their parents that distractions are serious business.

Rolayne Fairclough, AAA: “What we know from this is that parents really need to be very, very involved in their teenage drivers and how they’re letting them drive.”

Tougher driving laws, or graduated driving laws, for young drivers seem to have made a difference in Utah.

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