The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 14 and 18. Almost half of the crashes involving teen drivers result in a fatality, and the mortality rate is four times higher than drivers who are 20 and older. In response to these facts, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated a National Teen Driver Safety Week in October to educate parents and teens on strategies to prevent car crashes and highlights dangerous behaviors that lead to crashes. The Nevada Department of Transportation cites data from the 2014 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) showing that the primary cause of teen fatalities in crashes is aggressive driving, which includes speeding or following too closely behind another vehicle. Intoxication and a failure to wear seatbelts are also among the top causes of fatal accidents.

Cellphone use increases the risk of a fatal crash

Distracted driving is a growing contributor to car accidents in Nevada. This dangerous activity is a factor in 10 percent of accidents involving drivers under the age of 20. Teen drivers using their cellphones for texting are 20 times more likely to cause a crash, and even talking on a handheld phone decreases the amount of brain activity dedicated to driving by 37 percent. Any activity that takes the driver’s eyes from the road, the hands from the wheel or the mind from the task of driving is considered a distraction, according to Texting or accessing the Internet on a handheld device is particularly dangerous because the driver becomes completely disengaged from the road for about five seconds at a time. At highway speeds, this equates to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. Texting and driving is illegal in 41 states, and 12 states, including Nevada, ban the use of all handheld devices while driving.

Programs reduce teen fatalities

National Teen Driver Safety Week promotes many tactics to help teen drivers engage in safer behaviors on the road. Nevada is a participant in the graduated driver licensing program, which has helped to reduce the number of teen fatalities in states where it has been adopted. These programs require longer practice periods and reduce at-risk circumstances such as driving at night or with a group of teens. The campaign also enlists the help of parents to raise awareness and reduce the incidence of teen drivers and car accidents. Parents are encouraged to model good behaviors, such as wearing seat belts and driving cautiously. A parent-teen driving agreement is another way to promote safety for teen drivers.