Report: Fewer Fatalities, More Head Injuries in Teen Crashes

While there have been fewer crashes and crash-related fatalities involving young drivers in recent years, a new study of 55,500 teen drivers and their passengers injured in crashes between 2009 and 2010 showed that a large percentage of injuries in those collisions included skull fractures, concussions and brain injuries.

Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found in a study sponsored by insurance provider State Farm that there were 1,849 fewer fatalities among teen drivers and their passengers in 2010 than in 2005, representing an impressive 56 percent drop. Their study also found that the number of people involved in police-reported collisions with a young driver dropped 24 percent during the same period.

But the same researchers said their report uncovered a disturbing statistic: 30 percent of injuries in those crashes are head-related. Damage to the “lower extremities” made up 27 percent, the second leading injury.

“Since full recovery from serious head injuries is often not achievable, there can be a significant life-long impact from these injuries on teens and their families,” Dennis R. Durbin, the report’s lead author, said in a statement. “The brain is the organ that is least able to heal, so prevention is the best medicine.”

Researchers emphasized that vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds, accounting for 1 in every 5 deaths in the U.S. in 2009 and killing youngsters at almost five times the rate of cancer or poisoning.

The yearly report, titled “Miles to Go: Monitoring Progress in Teen Driver Safety,” also highlighted the larger effect of crashes involving young motorists. Researchers noted “a category of victims often forgotten” when they found that, in 2010, 3 out of every 10 deaths resulting from collisions with a teen behind the wheel were to people outside the teen’s vehicle.

“The overall impact of crashes with teens behind the wheel … is staggering, with teen driver fatalities only part of the story,” the report stated. “Thousands more—including friends, family members, and others on the road—suffer physical injuries, psychological trauma and disruption to their daily lives.”

State Farm also noted that these injuries put a large burden not only on the lives of these teens but also on our nation’s health care system, and, no doubt, the insurance companies that pay for those medical expenses.

Other studies consistently link high accident rates to teenagers, and insurance companies follow suit by charging higher rates and premium for younger drivers. As a result, parents shopping for policies for their newly licensed driver shouldn’t expect low auto insurance rates.

Another recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety further broke down young motorists’ habits by gender, showing that young female drivers were more likely than their male counterparts to use an electronic device behind the wheel.

Federal officials say distracted driving is a big problem for teen drivers, who are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. Sixteen percent of young motorists involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

The complete report on head injuries is available at www.teendriversource.org.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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