July 4, texting and speeding: Deadly combo for teens
While Independence Day is known for being a dangerous day for all motorists, federal safety regulators are calling for teen drivers to be especially cautious this July 4 by obeying speed and texting laws.
July 4 is now the deadliest day on the road for all Americans, with an average of 134 deaths on that day since 2007, with teens accounting for 6 percent of those fatalities, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans up to age 34, with teens crashing four times more often than any other age group, IIHS data show. In fatal crashes involving teen drivers, speeding is a factor in one-third, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
Speeding as a contributor in fatal teen driver crashes has inched up over the past decade from 30 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2011, according to the GHSA report funded through State Farm.
"Speeding is more prevalent among teen males, at night, and in the presence of other teen passengers. When three or more teen passengers are in a vehicle driven by a 16-year-old male, almost half of their fatal crashes are speeding-related," Susan Ferguson, author of the report, said in a statement.
On the texting front, teens are becoming more aware of the dangers of distracted driving while using cellphones, but many are still doing it. Seventy-five percent of teens admit that they find reading and responding to texts distracting behind-the-wheel, up from 49 percent in 2009, but 39 percent still admit to texting while driving, according to The Allstate Foundation. Six percent say they text behind the wheel "a lot."
The GHSA report also offers the following tips for parents:
1. Have serious discussions about the importance of observing all traffic laws, demonstrate by example, and establish family rules and consequences for breaking laws.
2. Avoid allowing teens to have primary access to a vehicle for at least the first year of independent driving.
3. Make safety the primary consideration when selecting a car.
4. Consider the many options for in-vehicle speed monitoring devices both in the after-market and increasingly as original vehicle equipment.
5. Consider participation in incentive-based insurance programs that monitor usage, braking/acceleration and/or speed.
If you are looking for a safe, affordable and reliable vehicle for your teen driver, here are 14 from CarInsurance.com's "Best cars for teens" list.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.