The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a the bearer of bad news when it shows statistic with teenagers behind the wheel. Collecting all the available information from the auto insurance industry, law enforcement, hospitals and clinics it has all the tragic statistics. Thus it reports that, between 2006 and 2010, some 18,000 teen drivers died on our roads. That’s three times the death rate for drivers aged 20 and over. There’s also a pattern with the most deaths in Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming, and the lowest death rates in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. It seems teens drive fast on the open roads, and have less chance to speed in the northern cities. It’s a tragedy that the combination of inexperience and natural recklessness, can have such a terrible effect. When you add in all the distractions new mobile technology brings, we should be grateful manufacturers have been improving safety design. The new crumple zones absorb the energy of impacts. There are stronger cages to protect the passengers. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of our young are seriously injured.
Some insurers are trying to encourage young drivers to take their own safety more seriously. There are a number of peer programs to pass on self-defense driving tactics, there are safe-driver videos online, and competitions with cash prizes to build interest. States have also been changing over to a graduated driver licensing system but the results are not consistent. The real problem is there are no real deterrents to teens getting behind the wheel. If they are not earning, either their parents pay the higher premiums or they drive uninsured. No matter if they get the cheapest car insurance rates or the full-price ones, they drive the same. Worse, the penalties they face if they are caught breaking the law are not considered serious. Indeed, some teens seem to think collecting tickets is part of the rite of passage, that they are not proper teens unless they have been caught speeding. There’s a real need for a major rethink on the right to drive. Denying teens (or their parents) the cheapest car insurance is not the answer. There need to be penalties with teeth.