Teens With Cars Are Twice as Dangerous

Teens with their own cars are more likely to be in crashes, study shows.

ByABC News
September 25, 2009, 4:58 PM

Sept. 28, 2009 — -- For teenagers, a car symbolizes freedom, adventure, instant cool and perhaps a hint of sex appeal.

But while having a car of their own may be every teenager's dream, new research shows that easy access to an automobile can also increase the risk of crashing it.

Compared to teenagers who shared a vehicle with their parents, teenagers with their own car were twice as likely to be involved in an accident, according to a study published today in the journal Pediatrics.

A related study from the same authors found that parenting styles can impact a teenager's risk of crashing.

"Part of the very nature of being the primary driver of a vehicle is the impression that no one is keeping track of what you are doing as closely," said Dr. Flaura Winston, co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and one of the authors of both studies. "But if a parent has to hand you the keys and asks, 'where are you going and who with,' that is crucial to the safety of early, inexperienced drivers."

And accidents can happen even at a standstill

For his 17th birthday, Collin Bates received a canary yellow, used Audi. Three months later, it was in the shop.

The Audi's front bumper was ripped off as a driver clipped his car from behind when she sped by him while Collin idled, waiting to make a left turn.

"It was ostensibly my fault, since her lane had changed [direction] 10 minutes before, but she was speeding and I was stopped," said Bates, now 25, who asked that his real name not be used. "But I don't think me having my own car made that accident happen or not happen... It happened."

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in 16- to 17-year-olds, claiming over 1,800 lives and injuring over 166,000 each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the survey, which the researchers conducted in collaboration with the insurance company State Farm, about 70 percent of the teenagers said they were the primary driver of a car. These respondents were also more likely to attend schools in richer neighborhoods, have good grades and have a job.