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Teens making poor choices when it comes to riding in vehicles
Date:8/27/2008

Nashville, TN Injury prevention experts have long known that teens are less likely than other motorists to wear seat belts while driving. Now, researchers from the Meharry-State Farm Alliance at Meharry Medical College have discovered lack of seat belt use by teen passengers may be an even bigger problem.

In the first ever direct comparison of the differences between driver and passenger seat belt use for a nationally representative teen population, the Meharry researchers found that 59% of teens always buckled up in the driver seat but only 42% always wore seat belts as passengers. Even more sobering, only 38% of all teens reported always buckling up as both drivers and passengers.

The study population comprised over 12,000 African American, white, and Hispanic public and private high school students ages 16 or older who participated in the 2001 and 2003 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. The surveys are conducted every two years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the leading causes of death and disability among U.S. teens.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for nearly 5,000 fatalities each year. About 40% of all teen motor vehicle occupant deaths involve passengers.

"Because seat belts can reduce the risk of injury and death in crashes by more than 50%, there is a critical need for interventions to increase seat belt use by teens as both drivers and passengers," said Nathaniel Briggs, MD, MSc, lead researcher on the study, published in the September 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

To address the issue, Briggs and his colleagues recommend a combination of approaches.

  • Upgrade state seat belt laws to uniformly require that teen motor vehicle occupants in the rear seat be secured in seat belts. Currently, the majority of state laws are limited to front seat coverage for some or all teens in the 16-19
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Contact: Linda Sparks
lsparks@mmc.edu
615-327-6773
Meharry Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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