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Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens

According to a researcher from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), traffic accidents are now the No. 1 cause of deaths among U.S. teens. As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, the researcher broke down the risks among novice drivers and says there's a lot we can do to lower the risk.

"Teen drivers, particularly novice ones, are overrepresented in U.S. fatality and injury crash statistics. The extraordinarily high teen crash rates are unacceptable and it is our core mission to save lives," said the researcher, who leads the Teen Risk and Injury Prevention Group at VTTI.

"We believe that we can reduce these high crash rates through education, engineering, and enforcement for all of the risks that face teen drivers," he added.

The key issues that make driving risky for teens are closely associated with the fact that they are relative novices behind the wheel. They simply can't deal with many problems more experienced drivers can handle.

According to the researcher, about 20 percent of U.S. drivers is involved in a collision within their first six months behind the wheel -- often due to distraction.

Indeed, the top issues, according to VTTI, include distraction, hard breaking and cornering, speeding and driving at night -- particularly among less experienced teens.

VTTI performed a naturalistic study among teen drivers -- the first of its kind to assess the risks teens face in the early period of their driving lives. The study discovered that novice teens are four times as likely to be involved in a crash or a near-crash event during their first 18 months after licensure.

Teens often overlook the risks of some distracting activities, the researcher says. This particularly applies to distractions related to the use of mobile devices. Their overall use and their use behind the wheel continues to increase exponentially, he notes.

If the problem is that many teens underestimate the risks of distraction, speeding, and rough driving, the solution is in better training and coaching.

"We cannot stress enough the importance of educating teen drivers, parents, and the public at large about potential risks and the best methods to alleviate them. That way, we can provide the guidance and best practices teen drivers need to stay safe on the roads."

If you have a teen driver in the family, be sure to educate them about the dangers of distraction and other negative driving behaviors. Just as important, follow up by modeling good driving behavior yourself.

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