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Study: Safety tech could prevent or mitigate 41 percent of all teen crashes

Regular readers of our Los Angeles Motor Vehicle Accident Blog will recall that we wrote about how parents can help their teenagers to become safe drivers. Today’s post has a related theme: how advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) could help to make teens safer drivers.

“Teenagers drive less than all but the oldest people, but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high,” says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on its website. For 16-19 years old drivers, the motor vehicle accident rate is nearly four times the rate for drivers age 20 and above. The fatal wreck rate for drivers 16-17 years old is about three times the rate for drivers 20 and up.

Inexperience, speed and seatbelts

Why are teen crash rates so high? In an IIHS study just released, the nonprofit organization says teens have “a unique set of risk factors that includes high rates of speeding, low seatbelt use and inexperience.”

Past research showed that teens typically don’t recognize driving hazards as quickly as more experienced drivers and don’t control their vehicles as well as older drivers. Teens also lose their focus more easily and are less likely to lower their vehicle’s speed when roads are wet and when visibility is poor. Add it all up and the result is more loss-of-control and rear-end crashes.

Technologies helping teens

The good news is that there are ADAS specifically designed to address those flawed driving characteristics and behaviors: forward-crash prevention (with automatic emergency braking), blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure assistance systems are particularly helpful for teen drivers.

The new IIHS study shows that a combination of crash avoidance systems and teen-specific safety tech “have the potential to prevent or mitigate up to three-quarters of fatal crashes involving teen drivers.”

Crunching the numbers

IIHS researchers analyzed teen crash data from 2016-19, looking for accident conditions relevant to the three crash avoidance systems mentioned, as well three teen-specific technologies (speeding prevention, nighttime curfew notifications and interlocks that encourage seatbelt use). Researchers then combed through the data to determine what would happen if the six safety systems were installed in all vehicles, universally used and always effective.

Together the systems would “prevent or mitigate 41 percent of all crashes involving teen drivers and as many as 47 percent of teen driver injuries and 78 percent of teen driver deaths,” the IIHS said.

Unfortunately, only about one in four vehicles will be equipped with forward-crash prevention (with automatic emergency braking), lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring by 2023. Regardless, few of those vehicles will be driven by teenagers, who tend to drive older vehicles that have fewer safety features.