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Teens at Greatest Risk of Fatal Accidents During Nighttime Hours

A recent report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) indicates that the greatest risk of death to young drivers is not posed by speeding, failure to buckle a seatbelt, indifference toward traffic laws or drunk driving. Surprisingly, the greatest risk of death in a car accident is posed by driving after dark.

Why is driving after dark so dangerous for drivers between the ages of 16 to 19? The answer is simple: the widespread use of cell phones and handheld devices behind the wheel.

Teenage drivers are often overconfident in their ability to use cell phones while driving and underestimate the grave risks of distracted driving. According to Bernie Fette, a senior research analyst at the TTI, this overconfidence coupled with nighttime fatigue and inexperience behind the wheel can create a “perfect storm” of danger.

The results of the TTI report would seem to support this proposition. Specifically, the report found that while the total number of nationwide traffic deaths among young drivers decreased between 1999 and 2008, the percentage of fatal nighttime car accidents among this demographic actually increased.

To illustrate:

• In 1999, there were 6,368 fatal accidents involving drivers between the ages of 16-19. Exactly 2,875 of these accidents (45 percent) occurred during the night.

• In 2008, there were 4,322 fatal accidents involving drivers between the ages of 16-19. Exactly 2,148 of these accidents (just below 50 percent) occurred during the night.

Currently, the state of Florida has no laws expressly banning texting while driving or use of a cell phone while driving. However, it does have graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws in effect. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, these laws “allow young drivers to safely gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges.” Nighttime driving restrictions are part of Florida’s GDL laws.

Related Resources: • Cell Phones Raise Teen Nighttime Driving Risks (The Miami Herald)

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