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Are teens more likely to die in a car accident than adults?


Too Much Alcohol and Speeding, Not Enough Experience
It's not real. Students of Vandegriff High School and law enforcement personnel perform the drama of Shattered Dreams where a simulated car crash involving teenagers demonstrates the consequences of underage drinking and driving.
It's not real. Students of Vandegriff High School and law enforcement personnel perform the drama of Shattered Dreams where a simulated car crash involving teenagers demonstrates the consequences of underage drinking and driving.
© Bob Daemmrich/Bob Daemmrich Photography, Inc./Corbis

They were college freshmen, best friends, together since kindergarten. Then, early one morning in February 2006, Jessica Rasdall and Laura Gorman, once inseparable, parted in the most horrible of ways. It began with a trip to the clubs; drinks; a walk to the car; a turn of the key. Less than an hour later, Gorman was dead, and her BFF, was charged with killing her [source: Goldberg].

The story is all too familiar: teens drinking and driving. Although underage, Rasdall and Gorman had no trouble doing shots in the Ybor City section of Tampa, a historic district that teems with bars and restaurants. According to reports, the girls were drinking at one of the clubs and left at 3 a.m. for the 40-minute drive home. At some point, the car swerved from Interstate 275 and slid down a hill, slamming into a tree. Gorman died of her injuries, and Rasdall received 400 stitches to close up a gaping wound in her head. Authorities took a blood sample and found that Rasdall was one-and-a-half times over the legal limit [source: Goldberg]. (For Florida drivers over age 21, the legal limit is 0.08; drivers under 21 face stiff penalties with a level of 0.02 or higher.)

Drinking and driving is one of the leading causes of death for teen motorists. In 2011, 24 percent of young drivers (ages 15-20) involved in fatal car crashes were drinking, and 26 percent had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. During that same period, the agency reported that 28 percent of young male drivers involved in fatal car wrecks were drinking, compared to 16 percent of female drivers.

Drinking and getting behind the wheel isn't the only factor that determines why teenagers are more likely to die in a car accident than older drivers. According to the CDC, most teens just don't have the experience. They don't allow enough room between the front of their car and the back of the vehicle ahead of them. Teens are also more likely to underestimate dangerous situations than older drivers [source: CDC].

Teens are also more likely to speed. In fact, speed plays a major factor in fatal car accidents. In 2010, 39 percent of male drivers between 15 and 20 years old who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the accident [source: CDC].


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