Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States but a Virginia Tech expert says steps can be taken to reduce high crash rates for new drivers, an important message during this week’s National Teen Driver Safety Week.
“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,” says Charlie Klauer, a research scientist and the leader of the Teen Risk and Injury Prevention Group at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “We believe that we can reduce these high crash rates through education, engineering, and enforcement for all of the risks that face teen drivers.”
Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) shows that the key risks facing teen drivers include driver distraction, hard braking and cornering, speeding, and nighttime driving — especially for new teen drivers. Klauer led a naturalistic teenage driving study which discovered that novice teen drivers are involved in four times as many crash and near-crash events during the first 18 months of licensure. The study was the first of its kind to investigate the risks faced by teen drivers during the first few months after receiving their licenses.
Klauer says that distracting activities performed while driving are often overlooked risks, and that we need to remain diligent as the impact of mobile devices used by young adults while driving continues to increase exponentially.
“One out of every five young drivers in the United States is involved in a collision within the first six months of driving, often because they are distracted. 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,” says Klauer.
Charlie Klauer’s primary research involves studying the effects of distraction and fatigue on driving, especially on novice drivers. She has served as the project manager for the 100 Car Naturalistic Driving Study and is currently a principal investigator and project manager for the Supervised Practice Driving Study, Driver Coach Study, and the Canada Naturalistic Driving Study.
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