SPOKANE, Wash. - A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows teens have the highest rate of car crashes of any age group in the country -- and teen driving deaths are on the rise after years on the decline.
The latest numbers from 2015 show 1,886 young drivers died, up nine percent from the year before. In that same year, 195,000 teen drivers were injured, which is a 14 percent increase from 2014. The AAP research also shows drivers with less than a year and a half of experience are four times more likely to get in a crash.
Researchers at the AAP found motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for teens. The study states per mile driven, drivers aged 16- and 17-years-old have the highest rate of crash involvement.
So as a parent, how can you help those numbers go down and save lives? Both the AAP and driving instructors agree you should practice driving with your child as much as possible -- more than the state-required minimum hours for a license.
As a former police officer, driving instructor A.J. Seitz said he's had to knock on doors and tell families their loved ones have died in car crashes -- which is why the numbers are especially concerning for him. Seitz told KXLY4 parents should also have their kids focus on specifics.
"You need to specifically work on roundabouts, you need to specifically work with four-way stops, or parallel parking," Seitz said.
AAP researchers say inexperience, impaired driving and distractions are some of the factors leading to the spike in teen driving deaths. Seitz said he wasn't surprised by those details.
"They're used to all this, you know, electronics and technology," Seitz said. "It's just a part of their life. And they have to understand that they can't change their cognitive abilities between driving and doing that."
The AAP recommends pediatricians advocate for later school start times, as well as free, non-punitive sober ride home programs. Officials say it's best for parents to avoid picking up their phone in the car to set a good example.
Seitz says maybe most importantly, parents should instill in their kids that they aren't invincible.
"Unfortunately teenagers think they have their whole life ahead of them and that is a component with the way they think," Seitz said. "Sometimes they don't wear seat belts because they're thinking well, nothing's going to happen to me today. I've still got my whole life ahead of me."
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