Although the roads of South Carolina, like the rest of the US, have become safer over the last two decades, the number of fatal accidents remains unacceptably high for teen drivers.
At the end of last month the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled a new campaign that challenged parents to discuss five important driving practices with their teenage children.
The "5 to Drive" campaign was launched to coincide with National Teen Driver Safety Week in late October.
"Safety is our highest priority, especially when it comes to teens, who are often our least experienced drivers," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, said in a statement. "The '5 to Drive' campaign gives parents and teens a simple, straightforward checklist that can help them talk about good driving skills and most importantly, prevent a tragedy before it happens."
As an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer, I have seen many teen driving initiatives by the NHTSA and other organizations. Yet the death toll for teen drivers remains unacceptably high.
NHTSA data reveals auto crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers 14-18 years-old in the United States. In 2011, 2,105 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes. The "5 to Drive" campaign encourages parents to visit the site www.safercar.gov/parents/teendriving and discuss with their teens the safety topics. They are:
1. Don't Use a cellphone and never text while driving
2. Don't take extra passengers
3. Never speed
4. No alcohol, and
5. No driving or riding without a seat belt
The list targeted a number of areas of distracted driving that contribute to the disproportionate teenage death rates on the roads.
In 2011, more than half of teen occupants of passenger vehicles who died in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt while 12 percent of teen drivers in fatal crashes were distracted, according to NHTSA figures. Alcohol remains an issue for teen drivers. In 2011, more than 500 people died in crashes caused by intoxicated drivers aged 14 to 18.
While more than 40 states now have texting and driving bans, South Carolina has to date resisted moves to bring in legislation. However, the NHTSA figures make the dangers of texting behind the wheel crystal clear.
Peer pressure is another relevant factor in teen driving deaths. When the teen driver in a fatal crash was unrestrained, most of that driver's teen passengers were unrestrained as well, NHTSA research found.
"Moreover, one NHTSA study found that a teenage driver was 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger and three times more likely with multiple teenager passengers," the NHTSA website states.
"Inexperience and immaturity, combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving, and other teen passengers contribute to the high fatality rate of teens involved in fatal crashes," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
There are plenty of examples of tragic accidents caused by teens on the roads of South Carolina.
Last month South Carolina Highway Patrol arrested a teen who was charged with drunk driving in a crash that killed a pregnant woman in Greenwood County. Alisha Boyter, 21, of Greenwood was pronounced dead at the accident scene.
If you have been hurt in an accident involving a teen driver or you have lost a close family member, you should contact an experienced Columbia, SC car accident lawyer.