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Driver Errors Explain Most Teen Crashes, Experts Say
Date:4/13/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 12 (HealthDay) -- Driver error accounts for the majority of U.S. motor vehicle crashes involving teenagers, a new study finds.

A study of about 800 serious crashes involving teen drivers found that inexperience and distraction, not reckless driving or alcohol, caused the collisions.

"This study shows the vast majority of crashes occur not because the teen drivers are behaving badly, but because they have not yet developed the crucial skills they need,'' said Allison Curry, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Curry and her colleagues studied 795 serious crashes involving 822 teen drivers, using a nationally representative federal database.

Seventy-six percent of the crashes were due to a critical teen driving error, they found.

And three common errors accounted for nearly half of all serious crashes: lack of ''scanning'' skill to assess the environment sufficiently while behind the wheel; driving too fast for road conditions (not necessarily going over the speed limit, however); or being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle.

Conducted with State Farm Insurance Companies, the study is published April 11 in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Nationwide, in 2008, more than 600,000 teens were injured in vehicle crashes; more than 4,000 teenagers died, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among 13- to 19-year-olds.

Curry and her colleagues looked at the ''critical reason'' for each of the crashes they studied. That's defined as the critical error that occurs right before the crash.

For instance, while negotiating a left turn, a teen driver may not ''scan" enough to the left and be hit by oncoming traffi
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