Teens with own cars have more crashes, study finds

(AP) -- Parents beware: Giving in to teens' demands for their own cars can have dangerous consequences, new research suggests.

Teenagers with their own cars or free use of one are much more likely to get in crashes than those who share a car. And crashes are much less common among teens whose parents set clear driving safety rules.

The findings are in two studies by researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and funded by State Farm Insurance Co. They were released Friday and are in the October issue of Pediatrics.

The researchers say the findings can help parents keep their kids from becoming a grim statistic: Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, killing more than 5,000 each year.

Getting a driver's license and car are often viewed as rite of passage for U.S. teens, and many parents underestimate the risks.

More than 7,000 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in 2007, government data show. More than 3,000 of these deaths were teen drivers, and more than 250,000 teen drivers were injured.

"With teen drivers, you have to recognize that it's a issue," said Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, a Phoenix pediatrician who co-wrote an American Academy of Pediatrics report on teen drivers.

The 2006 report encourages parents to highlight the seriousness of driving privileges by requiring teens to sign driving contracts promising to abide by safety rules.

The new research shows that kind of hands-on approach pays off.

"Families need to know that driving is different" from other steps toward independence,said Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston, the study's lead author. "Just at the time their is pulling away, they need to get back involved to spare them heartache."

The research is based on a nationally representative survey of more than 5,500 teens in grades nine through 11. Students at 68 high schools answered questionnaires in 2006.

More than 2,000 students who reported driving on their own were the focus of one study; 70 percent said they had their own cars or were the main drivers of cars they used.

Winston said it's alarming that so many kids have their own cars or feel that they have free use of one. She said that freedom can lead to "a sense of entitlement about driving" that may make them less cautious.

Among these "main" drivers, 25 percent had been involved in crashes, versus just 10 percent of teens who shared driving access. Winston said the lower crash rate doesn't reflect less driving time, but is likely due to having to ask for the car keys, which helps parents monitor their kids' driving.

Compared with teens whose parents were uninvolved, kids who said their parents set clear rules and monitored their whereabouts without being overly controlling had half as many crashes and much better driving habits.

These teens were 71 percent less likely to drive while drunk and 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving than kids with uninvolved .

Dr. Niranjan Karnik, a University of Chicago specialist in adolescent mental health, said the research underscores the importance of appropriate parenting and widely enacted graduated licensing laws for teens.

Debby Hendricks of Hatfield, Pa. made her daughters wait until age 17 to get their licenses, and gave them lots of practice beforehand.

The girls, aged 17 and 19, also share a family car, and can't "just grab the keys and leave" without saying where they're going and with whom, Hendricks said.

So far so good - neither girl has been in an accident, although the younger one, Leslie, has only had her license for a few months.

Leslie considers herself a safe driver, but adds, "I probably do underestimate the risks."


On the Net:

American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org

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User comments

Sep 25, 2009
"Winston said the lower crash rate doesn't reflect less driving time, but is likely due to having to ask for the car keys, which helps parents monitor their kids' driving." I highly doubt this. If you are sharing a car, there is a high degree of probability that you have less time to drive than one who does not share. I suspect the higher stats for non-sharing teenage drivers are because the teenagers that do not share a car drive much more than the ones who share a car with their parents.

Sep 25, 2009
Absolutely MysticFear. Which really begs the question, why bother publishing results of a study when you can just walk up to a person on the street, ask them, and be told the exact same thing that we're told here? I think that even the premise is a bit silly.

Sep 25, 2009
It seems likely to me, too, that the teens with their own cars are driving considerably more, and probably in more unfamiliar places. I didn't read the study, but the article did not make it clear whether the study considered differences in miles driven and the familiarity of the roads. I'd think that these factors would have a fairly significant impact on accident rates for inexperienced drivers.

Sep 26, 2009
Heh, heh. Physorg readers (properly) demolish in seconds study that took months to conduct.

I suggest a "Physorg Reasonableness Board" for potential research projects.

Sep 26, 2009
Maybe we should raise the age of Majority to 25?

Sep 26, 2009
Interesting how the readers can 'demolish' two studies merely by stating opinions that do not in any way reflect the the data. The summery here is neither of the studies.

Sep 26, 2009
Another brilliant piece of research.

*claps in admiration*

Also, did anyone notice "State Farm Insurance Co.". I wonder why they would fund such a study. What does insurance have to do with car crashes? Oh no, wait..it does..

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