For people who follow such statistics, it is not surprising that the major killer of children under 18 is automobile accidents.
More than half of those fatal accidents occur when a teen driver is at the wheel, according to a study of 10,000 children killed in motor vehicle crashes. The majority of passenger fatalities occurred at speeds over 45 mph and when the passengers were not wearing their seat belts, according to the study, which was published in the March edition of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Parents should let these statistics be their guide and restrict their children from riding with a teen driver who has less than a year's driving experience. Parents must insist that their children wear seat belts and tell them to call home for a ride if they ever face a potentially dangerous driving situation.
During the first six months, Utah law restricts newly licensed drivers from ferrying passengers who are not immediate family members. Public safety advocates fought long and hard to establish this restriction. It has, undoubtedly, saved lives. But this research suggests that a yearlong restriction on passengers would be a far greater boon to public safety. Lawmakers should revisit this issue.
Parents, of course, are free to establish their own household rules for teen drivers and children who are passengers in cars driven by teenagers. Accidents are more likely on weekends, among male teen drivers and among drivers who have been drinking. These are other important factors for parents to consider as they develop personal restrictions and expectations.
Every year, the Deseret Morning News publishes many stories about young people under 18 who perish in automobile accidents. These articles represent the heartbreak of entire communities. Burying a child is every parent's worst nightmare.
A teenager's sense of invincibility can readily trump the advice of parents, which is a sad reality. But parents and communities should not use that as an excuse to shrug the responsibility of setting clear expectations and leveling consequences when teen drivers, and passengers in cars driven by teens, do not take steps that enhance their safety. Their children's lives depend upon it.