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The vehicle in which four high school students were killed in a Saturday night collision is seen inside the garage of a Moncton car dealership on Monday, Sept. 10, 2007.

Viktor Pivovarov/The Canadian Press

The terrible toll involving inexperienced drivers is at the forefront of the majority of work being done by traffic safety professionals. The inordinate number of fatalities and injuries involving young people and vehicles has been covered by the media, included in most training programs and certainly kept more than a few parents up at night.

One of the major sources of accurate and reliable information regarding the issue is the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute and its Center for Injury Research and Prevention. CIRP's interdisciplinary team is comprised of experts in the fields of injury prevention, traffic safety, adolescent health, behavioural science epidemiology, biostatistics, demography, engineering and public health. With funding, primarily from State Farm Insurance Co., which insures more cars in Canada and the United States than any other insurer in North America, CIRP has regularly compiled and presented data on the teen driver issue.

Teens in the two countries are a great deal alike in their habits, issues, interests and the vehicles they drive, roads they drive on and laws they operate under. Adding relevance to the CIRP data is the sheer size of the database. This includes information from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), an annual nationwide U.S. reporting system regarding fatal injuries in motor vehicle crashes. To be included in the FARS data, a crash must involve a motor vehicle travelling on a public road and result in the death of a person (vehicle occupant or non-motorist) within 30 days of the crash. FARS is available at

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The researchers at CIRP have created Miles To Go - a resource to help organizations with a framework for monitoring the impact of various initiatives to improve teen driver safety. The first report from Miles to Go, a "snapshot of teen driver safety," includes the status in 11 different areas chosen for "their ability to motivate action and measure progress. The authors say each reflects an opportunity for prevention. "By highlighting these indicators, we can develop more effective ways to curb crashes with teens behind the wheel," they say.

CIRP's Miles to Go in future years will monitor these indicators and report on progress.

Scary stats

  • Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of deaths that occur in crashes with a teen behind the wheel, are to teen drivers and their passengers.
  • The majority (63 per cent) of passenger deaths in the teen driver's vehicle are to peers (ages 15 to 19). An additional 10 per cent are to younger children and 27 per cent to older youth and adults.
  • Nearly three of every 10 deaths that occur in crashes with a teen behind the wheel are to people outside the teen's car, a category of victims often forgotten in teen driving safety discussions.
  • 70 per cent of these deaths are to occupants in other vehicles. Bicyclists, pedestrians and others comprise the additional 30 per cent.
  • Deaths of teens behind the wheel and their peer passengers account for 24 per cent of total teen deaths from any cause.
  • Motor vehicle crashes end more teen lives than cancer, homicide, and suicide combined.
  • More than half of teens behind the wheel fatally injured in crashes were speeding.
  • While only 10 per cent of teens report drinking and driving within the prior month, nearly four out of every 10 teens behind the wheel who died in a crash had a measurable amount of alcohol in their blood.
  • Only half of teens report "always" buckling up as passengers, while 10 per cent report "rarely or never" buckling up. The majority of teens behind the wheel (56 per cent) and teen passengers of teens behind the wheel (65 per cent) who died in crashes were not wearing seat belts.
  • 16 per cent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

Source: Miles to Go

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