Each spring in Louisiana, thousands of high school students attend proms and graduation parties. These are joyous events for teens, but this celebratory time of year also presents special safety risks. Teen drivers have less experience behind the wheel, can be distracted by friends or cell phones and often fail to fasten their seat belts.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens are among motorists least likely to wear seat belts. In 2008 in Louisiana, 78 percent of drivers ages 15 to 17 killed in crashes did not use a seat belt. Seventy-four percent of drivers ages 18 to 20 killed in crashes did not use a seat belt.
The number of deaths involving young drivers declined from 2007 to 2008, but the death rate is still high. Louisiana had a total of 128 drivers ages 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes in 2008. This number represents almost 11 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in our state. Males ages 15 to 20 are considerably more dangerous behind the wheel than their female counterparts. During 2008 in Louisiana, more than twice as many male drivers ages 15 to 20 were involved in fatal crashes compared to female drivers.
According to NHTSA, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. Teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. The prom and graduation experience often includes teens riding together to events with one of their peers behind the wheel.
Louisiana is participating in the national seat belt enforcement and awareness campaign, Click It or Ticket. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is providing funds to law enforcement agencies across Louisiana to work overtime throughout the Click It or Ticket campaign. For those who refuse to obey the law, Click It or Ticket greatly increases the odds that you’ll be pulled over and ticketed.
Drivers and passengers should keep in mind that Louisiana law requires all vehicle occupants to buckle up whether they are in the front or back seat.
Teens should know that buckling up takes a few seconds and is among the most effective and simple steps they can take to keep safe while driving. Parents should stress to their teens to always wear a seat belt and can provide a good example by buckling up themselves. Setting a good example as parents is critical in keeping teen drivers safe while in a vehicle – especially during this joyful time of year.
Lt. Col. John LeBlanc,
La. Highway Safety Commission