Over the last fifteen years, more than 70,000 children and teenagers died in car crashes in the U.S. These are disturbing numbers. This age group is disproportionately represented in fatal car crashes across the country, and Georgia is no exception.
Studies have repeatedly shown that crash rates decrease steadily as driver age increases; there is something to be said for experience behind the wheel. Insurance company Value Penguin published a report last year that identified trends in fatal crashes for children and teenagers. Perhaps the most surprising finding is that population density is inversely related to deaths in this age bracket: “The states with the highest motor vehicle fatality rates for children and teens from 2014 through 2018 tend to be in sparsely populated states, like those in the Great Plains. And the more densely populated Northeast tends to have lower fatality rates.”
These findings are borne out by the state rankings; those with the highest motor vehicle fatality rates in this age group are Mississippi, Wyoming and Montana. The lowest fatality rates are found in the District of Columbia, New York and Massachusetts. The report ranked Georgia at number 22 on the list of most fatal crashes for youth ages 19 and younger.
For a closer look at the numbers in the Peach State, we turn to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (“GDOT”) Crash Data Dashboard. In 2020, around a quarter of all car accidents occurred in rural or suburban areas. However, almost half of all fatal crashes in the state happened outside urban areas.
Why are children and teens at higher risk for fatal car accidents?
First and foremost, children have a much better chance of being improperly restrained in a vehicle. Seatbelts and airbags are all designed for adults, and restraint adaptations change as children grow. Even when car or booster seats are used, young children are unlikely to complain when restraints are too loose or not properly secured.
Teens are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes simply because of inexperience. According to a 2019 study in the journal Sustainability, “…novice drivers engage in three main risky behaviors: easily changing their attitudes, overestimating their driving skills, and underestimating illegal driving.”
Finally, from the report above, “Less densely populated areas tend to be riskier for crash deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because seat-belt use is not as common in rural areas… In more remote areas with less traffic, high speeds can also play a factor in increasing the risk for car crashes.” Generally speaking, rural areas have lower police presence, enforcement rates, and longer stretches of unobstructed roadway.
How can my teen avoid car accidents in Georgia?
According to GDOT’s Crash Data Portal, an average of “76% of fatalities in crashes are caused by unsafe driving behaviors, including distraction, impairment, or driving too fast for conditions.” The best way to keep your teen driver (or any other driver) safe is to remove distractions, wear seatbelts, and do your best to ensure safe vehicle operation. Other technologies like smartphone monitoring apps and speed governors can be used to help ensure that your teen is sticking to the rules of the road.
When your teen is a passenger, however, there are fewer options. The best defense is a good offense. Make sure that your child or teen understands the need to buckle up every time. Empower your children to avoid getting into vehicles with newly licensed drivers or anyone they feel may be unsafe; in these cases, they can simply say that a parent is expecting to pick them up. Educate them to be a responsible, respectful and non-distracting passenger, and that two sets of eyes on the road can be better than one.
For more resources to educate your child about responsible passenger best practices, we encourage you to visit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Teen Driver Source. The information there can be invaluable and serves to further illustrate just how dangerous novice drivers can be. Consider that while “…it may seem harmless for the newly licensed to drive their friends home from practice or to the movies, teen passenger risks are real. The crash risk doubles when teens drive one peer passenger and triples with two or more teen passengers.”
Unfortunately, even if everyone is observing the rules, the best drivers on the road cannot and do not offset the worst ones. Motor vehicle crashes can result in catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths. At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, we demand justice for your family. Our car accident lawyers in Atlanta and Savannah have obtained numerous verdicts and settlements, including cases involving product defects, medical malpractice, trucking accidents, fatal car accidents, and many other causes. To schedule a free, confidential appointment to discuss your case, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or complete our contact form.
Jed Manton is committed to representing individuals and business that have been harmed by the actions of others. With a solid track record, Jed has helped numerous clients who have been seriously injured or who have lost a loved one obtain justice, while holding the wrongdoer accountable.
Read more about Jed D. Manton here.