The Centers for Disease Control released a study that provides a wealth of information that puts the risks and costs of car, truck and motorcycle accidents in this country in context, particularly with respect to teenage drivers:
- Vehicle accidents cost $100 billion in medical care and productivity losses every year. Almost 4% of the economic losses involve children.
- Every 10 seconds, a victim of a car accident is treated in an emergency room for accident related injuries. Almost 40,000 people die in accidents every year.
- Not surprisingly, motorcycle accidents cause the most significant injuries. Motorcycle accidents comprise 6% of the total but 12% of the overall costs. Pedestrians and bicyclists are in a similar boat, causing 5% of the motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries and 10% of the economic costs.
- Teenagers are four times more likely to be involved in auto accidents. New rules such as driving curfews and other restrictions are helping reduce the number of car accidents involving teenagers. But a few smart rules don’t flip a number like “4 times as many.” The only answer is to change the law that gives teenagers their licenses. But there is no real inertia for that because (1) it has always been this way, (2) it is more convenient for parents than having to continue to chauffer their kids, and (3) teenagers have jobs and their inability to get to their jobs would have economic repercussions. Oh, and yes, changing the law to not allow teenagers to drive could and would probably start an armed revolution. But the fact that nine teenagers a day die in car accidents – most of which are the teen driver’s fault – is a bitter price to pay. I don’t know of a single reasonable person who supports raising the driving age to 20. But still. It is a bitter price we pay. (And, yes, I know I just said that twice.)
- Male teenage drivers are twice as likely to be killed in crashes as females. This is another “what do you do about this?” statistic. We allow for insurance companies to charge higher premiums for teenage boys. Why can’t we make different driving ages for boys and girls? Oh, forget it, I guess I know why we can’t.
- One in every three teenage deaths is the result of a motor vehicle crash.
As usual, there are no easy answers to this problem. We all demand the use of cars and we have determined that teenagers of a certain age should be given the opportunity to drive. Like most really vexing problems, anyone who thinks there is a “no-brainer any idiot could figure it out” solution just is not giving the issue much thought. But I do think we need to give more thought as a society to this issue. We have so many “wars,” two real wars and then our wars on poverty, drugs, cancer, and so forth. Everyone is war weary. But we have a lot of problems so there should be a lot of wars. A war against car traffic collision deaths should be on the war list.