In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for teens 15–19 years of age. Every day, roughly seven teens die in car accidents, and hundreds more are injured. An inexperienced teenage driver is twice as likely as an adult driver to be involved in a fatal collision. Based on this knowledge, auto safety technology has increasingly aimed toward specifically addressing the problem of teen driver crash rates—and recent data shows that it may be working.
Research Results: How Technology Can Prevent Teen Driver Accidents
In September 2021, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) published the findings of a study conducted on the efficacy of teen-driver-specific safety technologies. The study examined emerging auto safety features and systems that targeted some of the major causes of teen driver collisions and deaths: speeding, distraction, drifting out of lanes, rear-end collisions, and lack of safety belt use. Crash data collected between 2016 and 2019 across the U.S. analyzed the success of six primary features:
- Speed prevention
- Front crash prevention
- Lane departure prevention
- Extended seatbelt reminders and interlocks
- Blind spot monitoring
- Nighttime curfew violation alerts
Based on research results, it was determined that these technologies in combination had a significant impact on teen driver collision rates. The technologies designed to reduce speeding, prevent curfew violations, and encourage seatbelt use had a particularly positive effect on lowering the number of teen-involved motor vehicle crash injuries and fatalities. According to the IIHS report, teen-focused auto safety technologies have the potential to prevent:
- 78% of teen driver fatalities
- 47% of teen driver injuries
- 41% of all crashes involving teen drivers
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety advocates for more accessibility, use, and acceptance of these safety advancements across a wider audience, encouraging more automakers to offer and advertise teen-specific safety features for their vehicles. The published reports, the IIHS advises, are only intended to show the maximum safety benefits of the safety technologies. With increased use, the social and behavioral implications will become more evident as research devoted to teen driver behavior takes these technological advancements into consideration.
Teen-Specific Vehicle Technologies on the Market
Auto technology designed to prevent accidents and increase driver safety—usually referred to as crash avoidance technology, or a collision avoidance system, pre-crash system, collision mitigation system, or driver assistance system—has existed in various forms since the 1990s. As technology has advanced, more and more of these safety systems have been designed specifically with teen and new drivers in mind.
Limiting speed and promoting seatbelt usage has been the focus of much of the new teen-centered auto technology that has been developed. Teens are much more likely to speed than adult drivers. The CDC has stated that speeding was found to be a factor in nearly 50% of teen driver deaths, and 45% of teens killed in car accidents were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
Reducing distractions inside the vehicle has also been a priority objective. For teen drivers, in-vehicle distractions often come from loud music, mobile phone use, or touchscreen options which take driver attention off the road—and new technology has the ability to limit these options remotely. There are now products on the market that can help parents and guardians monitor the location and driving time of their teens, get real-time alerts, and peruse report cards that detail the performance of their teen behind the wheel in their absence.
MyKey, created by Ford to be compatible with certain Ford vehicles, allows a parent or guardian to program one or more vehicle keys to have restricted driving modes. This can include a seatbelt reminder which mutes the audio system until seatbelts are fastened, early-activating low fuel warnings, parking aids, cross traffic alerts, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), lane departure warnings, forward collision warnings, restricted touchscreen operation while the vehicle is in motion, and screened radio content.
GM’s Teen Driver for select Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and other GM vehicles is a built-in system designed to coach new drivers on safer driving habits. In 2015, the first models of Teen Driver technology were made available, and features were increased and expanded over the past several years. There are now options for speed alerts and speed limiters, audio volume limits, collision warnings, lane-departure warnings, a Buckle to Drive feature, and an in-vehicle report card to track a teen’s driving performance.
Other available mobile apps—like Hyundai Bluelink, Grom Social’s MamaBear, TrueMotion Family Safe Driving, Life360, and AT&T DriveMode—offer a variety of safety and monitoring features for parents and guardians of teen drivers. Mobile apps like these feature functions such as alerts when a teen driver is speeding or operating a vehicle past a curfew, teen driver location tracking, and the option to silence text messages and phone calls on a teen’s phone while they are driving.
How We Can Help Lower Teen Driver Crash Rates
According to the CDC, the top eight causes of teen accidents and injuries are, in order:
- Driver inexperience
- Driving with teen passengers in the vehicle
- Driving at night
- Not wearing a seatbelt
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Knowing the top causes of teen driver collisions can help us as parents, guardians, and adult drivers sharing the road with inexperienced teens take measures to promote safety and encourage better driving habits. The CDC publishes a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement to help foster better conversations and accountability when it comes to safety behind the wheel.
Parents, guardians, and those mentoring young drivers are encouraged to have regular conversations with their teen driver about the importance of safety, the consequences of poor decision-making, and how to make smart choices when operating a vehicle. If you have a new driver in your life, take the time to practice with them as much as possible, and under as many different types of weather, lighting, and driving conditions as you can. Above all, being a good example—by always adhering to best auto safety practices, wearing a seatbelt, and driving with the utmost care and attention at all times—is something we can all do to make a difference.
With further questions regarding legal options following a motor vehicle crash in Richmond or surrounding areas of Kentucky, please reach out to the Law Office of Todd W. Burris.