Study Shows Number One Killer of Teens is Motor Vehicle Crashes

Posted June 12, 2015 at 11:42 am     Category: News ReleasePublic Health

In half of fatalities, teens were not wearing seat belts; new study explores why

NEW HANOVER, BRUNSWICK, AND PENDER COUNTY, NC – More teens die in motor vehicle crashes than from any other cause of death, about 2,500 per year. Fatalities are split almost equally between teen drivers (56 percent) and passengers (44 percent). In half of the fatal crashes, the teen was not wearing a seat belt. To develop strategies to drive down the number of teens killed in cars (which claims fully 25 percent of all preventable injuries among children), Safe Kids Worldwide conducted a survey among teen passengers and drivers.

The report, “Teens in Cars,” was funded as part of a $2 million grant from the General Motors Foundation. It was based on a national survey of 1,000 teens ages 13 to 19.

One in four teens surveyed said they don’t use a seat belt on every ride. The top reasons they gave for not buckling up were that they forgot or it was not a habit (34 percent), they were not going far (16 percent), or the seat belt was not comfortable (11 percent). Asked why other teens don’t buckle up, one in three teens (33 percent) said that going to a party was a reason.

“We need to encourage everyone to buckle up on every ride, every time,” said Julia Histed, Safe Kids Cape Fear. “It only takes one time to forget to buckle up for a life to be changed forever.”

The survey also addressed the perilous practice of distracted driving. Thirty-nine percent of teens said they have ridden with a teen driver who was texting, and 95 percent said they think other teens have ridden with drivers who were texting. Teens who don’t always use seat belts are also more likely to report that they text while driving than those who say they wear a seat belt every time. About 43 percent of teens reported riding as a passenger with a teen driver who was talking on a phone.

These behaviors reflect the habits of their parents. More than half of teens said they have seen a parent talking on the phone while driving, and 28 percent have been riding in a car with a parent who was texting.

Tips for Families

  1. Buckle up on every ride, every time. This is important for everyone, both drivers and passengers.
  2. Talk to teens and kids about ways to speak up if a driver of any age isn’t driving safely.
  3. Be a role model in all your driving habits.


Release Contact:

Joshua Swift
Deputy Health Director
(910) 798-6592

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