Speed Kills signSpeeding as a factor in fatal teen crashes has increased in the last decade from 30% in 2000 to 33% in 2011, although total teen deaths have dramatically decreased in that period, according to a new report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The report, “Speeding-Related Fatal Crashes Among Teen Drivers and Opportunities for Reducing the Risks,” says that 19,447 fatal crashes of teen drivers were speeding-related.

In a USA TODAY article, Larry Copeland writes:

We forgot about speed.

To make roadways safer for teens, the nation has focused much attention on such critical issues as distracted driving and driving under the influence.

But speeding — which is arguably even more critical — has largely escaped such notice.

Speeding is more common among male teens, at night, and in the presence of teen passengers, said Dr. Susan Ferguson, author of the State Farm-funded report, and former senior vice president of research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And, she said, in a GHSA press release appearing on HeraldOnline.com, when a 16-year-old male is driving with three or more teen passengers, almost half of their fatal car accidents are related to speeding.

The GHSA press release quotes Dr. Ferguson:

Curbing teen speeding is vital since no other age group has a higher crash risk. Speeding is a common factor in the fatal crashes of teen male and female drivers. […]

Unless speeding is recognized as a dangerous behavior, much the same as drunk driving, addressing it will be difficult.

The problem is being made worse because many states have increased speed limits, and because there is a general belief that speeding is acceptable, the press release says. Ferguson notes that speed limits have been increasing across the U.S. since the repeal of the national 55 MPH speed limit in 1995, as Copeland writes.

The report says that speeding will continue to be difficult to address as a society until it is recognized as dangerous behavior, “much the same as alcohol-impaired driving,” Copeland writes. It is important for federal, state and local governments and the private sector to give more attention to the dangers of speeding, and for parents to take the lead in educating their driving teens about it, the report says.

Copeland writes that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Traffic Safety Culture Index — a survey of nearly 4,000 people of driving age — found that although 63% considered speeding on residential stress “completely unacceptable,” 47% had engaged in that behavior in the past month.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that eight of the 210 deadliest driving days for teens occur in the summer, as Copeland writes. The report suggests the following five tips for parents:

  1. Have serious discussions with teens about the importance of observing all traffic laws; demonstrate by example; and establish family rules and consequences for breaking laws.
  2. Don’t let teens have primary access to a vehicle for at least the first year of independent driving.
  3. Make safety the primary consideration when selecting a car.
  4. Consider having in-vehicle speed-monitoring devices, either as original vehicle equipment as after-market additions.
  5. Consider participating in incentive-based insurance programs that monitor usage, braking/acceleration, and/or speed.

You can read the full report here.

Image by Elliott Brown.

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