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Friday, November 11, 2011

Is Your Teen’s Driving Record Trying To Tell You Something?

Texas Drivers License

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,148 15 to 20 year old drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2009; the last year for which there are complete figures. That figure reflects a dramatic decrease over the year before but it still means that more than 14 teens are killed every day in the US. Among all age groups, 15 to 20 year old drivers have the highest death rate.

In 2009, Texas led the nation in the number of teen driving fatalities with 556 deaths. That is just over ten percent of all the teen deaths that year. California came in second with 476 teen deaths and Florida was third with 389. Just like the rest of the nation, California and Florida experienced dramatic decreases in their death rates with a decrease of 22 percent and 28 percent respectively. Texas however only experienced a 6 percent decrease in the teen death rate over the previous year.

One thing that was brought up in the report was the fact that many of the teen drivers who were involved in fatalities in 2009 had a prior record of traffic violations. When their driving record was reviewed, it showed that:
  • 12.8% had been involved in previous crashes
  • 11.9% had had their driver's license suspended or revoked
  • 1.6% had a previous DUI conviction
  • 19.2% had previous speeding convictions
  • 18.6% had other convictions for moving or harmful traffic violations
  • At the time of their death 33% had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.01 or higher and 28% had a BAC of 0.08 or higher. The legal alcohol limit is 0.08 in all 50 states.

A recent study showed that teens have the greatest risk of experiencing their first crash within the first month of driving on their own. It has long been known that teens are impulsive and they tend to take chances with the attitude that "it won't happen to me."

Teens seem to equate passing the driving test with expertise in driving but, for most, getting their license means their driving education has really just begun. Other studies have shown that teens, while recognizing that their friends might not be good drivers, tend to think that their own driving skills are better than that of others. This is known in psychological circles as "illusory superiority"; a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others.

Teens also seem to blur the distinction between driving skills and dangerous driving. They tend to think of someone who drives dangerously as someone who has not developed good driving skills. The teen however sees his or her "good" driving skills as permission to push the envelope by speeding or texting while driving in the belief that they can handle their car no matter what.

If your teen has gotten a traffic ticket for a moving violation, it may be time to reign in their driving privileges until they learn that safe driving means not taking chances behind the wheel. If they have gotten more than one traffic ticket, it should raise red flags that this teen is on a very dangerous path.

Most states allow the parents of minor children to access their driving records. Most states also allow a parent to officially cancel their minor child’s driving privileges by filing a report at the DMV. This may seem extreme but sometimes that is what it takes to get a teen’s attention. Better for them to hate you alive than to love you dead.

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Posted by NSC - Traffic Safety at

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