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August 1, 2013

Teens at higher risk of traffic accidents in summer

STILLWATER, Okla. — Teens are at a higher risk of having a car crash during summer months than any other time of year, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Fatal car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Nationally, seven teens per day die from motor vehicle injuries sustained in the same year, according to NHTSA.

The state health department number’s show that in 2010 approximately 4,600 teens ages 16 to 19 were injured, and 55 died from motor vehicle accidents statewide.

The summer months mean more time off for teens, but the risk of having a car accident may increase because students travel to and from summer jobs and to social activities, according to the state health agency.

Garry Thomas, director of the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, said programs like the graduated driver license law are implemented to decrease teenage fatal car accidents.

“Overall, for several years, crash rates are slowly going down,” Thomas said. “The GDL law has done a lot for that decrease.”

The GDL program “gradually phases in driving privileges for new teen drivers as they gain experience behind the wheel,” according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s website.  

In 2011, deaths decreased to 30, according to reports.

As far as how to stay safe, the health department suggests teens wear seat belts, drive slower, refuse to drink and drive, focus on the road and limit passengers and obey a curfew.

Sending or reading one text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field going 55 mph blindfolded, according to the health department.

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