Updated policy statement reviews the latest research and
provides guidance for physicians and families on teen driving risks
Teen driving fatalities appear to be on the rise after years
of decline, prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to update
recommendations for physicians and parents to address risks that include
inexperience, speed and distracted driving.
Despite a nearly 50-percent reduction in crash-related teen
deaths over the last decade, teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a
motor vehicle crash that causes injury or death than any other age group in the
United States. Data from 2014-2016 showed an increase in teen driving deaths
and crash-related injuries that suggest a need for renewed attention.
In its policy statement, “The Teen Driver,” the AAP observes
that while vehicle safety advances, graduated licensing laws, improvements in
seat belt use and impaired driving enforcement have helped lower the fatality
rate over the long term, much work needs to be done to make driving safer for
adolescents and the community.
The policy statement will be published in the October 2018
issue of Pediatrics (published online Sept. 24), and reflect new
research on the risks faced by teen drivers. The previous AAP policy statement
on teen driving was published in 2006.
“We all know how easy it is to become distracted while
driving, particularly in the age of texting and technology,” said Elizabeth M.
Alderman, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, member of the AAP Committee on Adolescence and a
lead author of the statement. “Parents can set a powerful example with their
own driving habits, from using a seatbelt regularly to avoiding cell phone use
In 2015, 1,886 young drivers died in motor vehicle crashes,
an increase of 9 percent from 2014. Another 195,000 teen drivers were injured
in vehicle crashes in 2015, up 14 percent from the prior year.
Teen drivers with fewer than 18 months of driving experience
have four times the risk of a crash or near-crash event, with risk factors that
include inexperience, speed, teen passengers, distraction and use of alcohol,
drugs or medication.
The crash risks increase for teen drivers who transport
young passengers. More than half of children age 8 to 17 who die in vehicle
crashes are killed as passengers of drivers younger than age 20.
“Every state has some form of graduated driver’s licensing
regulations, which have helped improve safety by limiting the number of
passengers or restricting night-time driving, for instance,” said Brian D.
Johnston, MD, MPH, FAAP, a lead author of the report and member of the Council
on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. “Yet more can be done. One step
that could make a difference is for communities to more consistently enforce
laws on seat belts and use of cell phones while driving.”
AAP recommends that pediatricians:
Counsel teens on seat
belt use and the risks of driving while impaired by alcohol, illicit
substances and medication.
Encourage parents to
practice driving with their teenagers in a variety of environments and for
more than the state-required minimum of hours.
Promote the use of safe
alternative routes to school to lessen driving time.
Support later school
start times to ensure teens have adequate sleep.
Study whether the
graduated driver’s licensing provisions should be expanded to include
novice drivers who are 18 or 19 years old.
The policy statement also notes that adolescents with
medical concerns such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, concussions
or sleep apnea may be at higher risk if their driving ability is affected.
“For many teenagers, driving is an important rite of passage,”
Dr. Alderman said. “We want to help them navigate this new privilege safely.
Families can ask their pediatrician to share in a conversation with their new
driver to set expectations and decrease risks.”
The AAP offers a Parent-Teen Driving agreement, which can be
found here: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/safety/Pages/Teen-Driving-Agreement.aspx
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds