After Years of Declining Numbers, Teen Deaths in West Virginia and the US are Sadly on the Rise Along With Distracted Driving
Unfortunately, a new report about mortality rates for young people gives us cause for sadness. The National Center for Health Statistics at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that there has been a significant rise in accidental deaths, homicides, and suicides among young people in the United States.
The Unwelcome Trend
The total death rate for 10- to 19-year-olds in the U.S. has increased by 12% between 2013 and 2016. This increase represents a marked change from the declining trend over the last two decades. Between 1999 and 2013, the death rate among young people had declined by 33%.
CDC statistician and lead author of the report, Sally Curtin, admitted that when she began the study, she thought she would see a continuation of the downward trend. But, she was quickly “surprised that there was such a broad increase across so many causes of death.”
The data revealed that the leading causes of death among young people are unintentional injuries, mostly from motor vehicle accidents, followed by suicide and homicide.
Accidental Deaths Among Young People Are Mostly Due To Motor Vehicle Accidents
As for accidental deaths for 10- to 19-year-olds, the rate had declined by 49% between 1999 and 2013. However, the rate increased by 13% between 2013 and 2016.
Motor vehicle traffic fatalities accounted for the majority of unintentional injury deaths to teens, at 62%. Poisoning (most of which are drug overdoses) and drowning accounted for 16% and 7% of the accidental deaths, respectively.
Indeed, with regard to fatal motor vehicle accidents, other studies support the latest National Center for Health Statistics findings. One study indicates that one out of five 16-year-olds will be in a car crash. Moreover, during a young driver’s first six months, and first 1,000 miles, the crash risk for that driver is the highest that it will ever be during his or her lifetime.
Even though young drivers represent only 13% of licensed drivers, they cause 28% of all car accidents, and 24% of all fatal accidents.
What Is The Cause of the Increased Motor Vehicle Accidents for Young People?
We all know that distracted driving due to the use of a cell phone is a problem that is not going away anytime soon. With young people particularly susceptible to 24/7 use of their smart phones, it comes as no surprise that cell phones is a factor in the increased numbers of deaths among teens. We can literally say that cell phone use while driving kills people every year in West Virginia.
Further, other passengers in a young person’s car can lead to distracted driving. Studies show that, for teenagers, adding one passenger to a car increases their crash risk by 48%. That risk goes to 258% with two passengers in the car, and 307% with three or more.
However, that only tells part of the story. It is possible that the cause could be grounded in the mental well being of our young people today. Director of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Tina Cheng, noted that the recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics confirms what she has observed in her work.
She has seen more children coming to clinics and emergency departments with mental health issues, including depression, suicidal ideation, and aggression. Further, the current opioid epidemic in this country may also be a contributing factor. Accordingly, tending to the mental health of our young people may be an important piece to consider. So, let’s talk about what we can do to help turn the tide on the recent report’s negative numbers.
How to Help Protect Our Teens? An Ounce of Prevention
Physicians and other experts see this recent report as an important wake-up call. Stanford University Medical Center trauma surgeon, Dr. Thomas Weiser, finds that “we should be worried about this . . . This disturbing trend should be a wake-up call that mental health services, injury prevention, gun safety and ongoing efforts to improve car and driver safety need support, attention, and financial resources.”
Here are five ways in which you, as parents, can help address teen driver safety:
- Night Driving Limits. Because approximately 40% of fatal auto accidents occur at night, you should decide that your teens avoid unsupervised driving after 10 p.m.
- Passenger Limits. Given the exponential increase in the risk of a crash as each passenger is added to a young person’s car, ensure that no one under the age of 18 is in the car during a young driver’s first year of driving.
- No Cell Phone. Teens are more likely to use cell phones behind the wheel than any other age group. Make the cell phone off-limits while driving.
- No Alcohol, or Other Drugs. Driving under the influence remains a serious issue among young people. Mandate that driving should never occur when under the influence. Ride sharing apps like Lyft and Uber now make it very easy for young people to avoid getting behind the wheel when impaired.
- Seat Belts, Always. It goes without saying that study after study supports the fact that seat belts, by and large, save lives. Thus, teach your teens early that buckling up is the first thing you do when you get in a car.
Hope for the Safety of Our Teens
While the recent National Center for Health Statistics report does not spell good news for the current state of affairs regarding the safety of our young people, it is a silver lining that the report tells us there is a problem. Armed with the knowledge that we are in a worrying trend, we can now do what it takes to get back on the right track.
Moreover, if you or a loved one was involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting from another person’s negligence, then we invite you to contact the West Law Firm. Providing the highest quality representation for all personal injury matters, our attorneys will ensure that you are made whole following a major car crash. Call us at 1-877-943-9378.
Overall, the recent report is only a finite disappointment, as Martin Luther King, Jr. would say. Let us have infinite hope that we can change those numbers for the better.