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Ask the Expert: Know the Facts, Risks and Laws of Teen Driving

June 12, 2019

The sunny summer days from Memorial Day to Labor Day can be a lot of fun for kids, but they are also the most dangerous. We asked Sam Smith, MD, to talk about what has been called the "100 Deadliest Days of Summer."

According to Dr. Smith, there is always a spike in injuries in the Emergency Department during the summer. He says the increase in injuries is partly due to the fact that kids are out of school and they spend their free time exploring, which sometimes leads to unsafe situations.

One particular dangerous situation is teen driving. Dr. Smith says once school lets out, teens are more likely to drive for fun, rather than for a purpose like going to school or taking a sibling to practice. It’s important for you and your teen to know and understand the risks and the laws for being on the road. Consider asking your young driver to sign a parent-teen agreement that establishes guidelines and expectations.

AGE

  • Fact: Arkansas teens have rates of motor vehicle death that are nearly twice as high as the US overall.
  • Risk: Teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
  • Arkansas Law: A teen may obtain a learner’s license at ages 14- 15, an intermediate license at ages 16-17, and a full license at age 18.

SEAT BELT USE

  • Fact: States with primary safety belt laws have higher belt use rates and lower fatality rates.
  • Risk: In 2008, more than half of the teens killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
  • Arkansas Law: The primary seat belt law states that any driver and front seat passenger can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. All passengers must wear a seat belt when riding with a teen driver with a learner’s or intermediate license.

CELL PHONE USE

  • Fact: The risk of having a crash is four times higher when cell phones are in use.
  • Risk: Using a phone while driving is a serious risk for teen drivers, forcing them to take their eyes off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel.
  • Arkansas Law: Teen drivers ages 14-17 are restricted from using cell phones except for emergency purposes. Texting and driving is illegal for all drivers.

NIGHTTIME DRIVING

  • Fact: 64% of Arkansas fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2009 occurred between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Risk: Four out of every ten crash deaths occur at night.
  • Arkansas Law: Teen drivers with an intermediate license are prohibited from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. unless accompanied by a licensed adult age 21 or older, or if driving to or from a school activity, church-related activity, or job.

PASSENGERS

  • Fact: Just one passenger increases the risk of a crash by 40%.
  • Risk: Teen drivers with two or more teen passengers increase the chance of a fatal crash by five times.
  • Arkansas Law: Teen drivers with an intermediate license are prohibited from having more than one unrelated minor passenger unless accompanied by a licensed adult age 21 or older.

UNDERAGE DRINKING

  • Fact: Nearly 25% of car crashes resulting in teen deaths also involved alcohol.
  • Risk: Each year thousands of teens are killed or injured in crashes as a result of underage drinking.
  • Arkansas Law: Teens driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) between .02 and .07 can be ticketed for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Teens driving with a BAC of .08 or greater can be ticketed for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). It is also illegal for adults to provide alcohol to minors or allow minors to drink alcohol on their property.

For more safety tips, visit http://www.archildrens.org/injury-prevention-center and subscribe to our blog for regular updates.

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