Motor Vehicle Deaths Claim More Adolescents Over Any Other Cause for 15- to 19-Year-Olds

Automobile crashes kill 3,000 young people every year. This number translates into eight adolescent fatalities per day. For every one teen female killed in a crash, two teen males encounter lethal outcomes.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified four situations producing a higher risk of casualty. Crashes occur most frequently the first year teens become eligible to drive. Nighttime driving produces double the crash risk of day light hour driving. Teen drivers with other teens in the car without an adult passenger raise the risk of an accident. As the number of teen passengers increases so does the risk of a collision. Teens report the lowest use of seat belts of any age group with 10.2 percent reporting rarely or never using the device.

“Car surfing” by teens began in the 1990s and news reports of injuries and deaths appeared every year since then. The term refers to riding on the exterior of a moving motor vehicle driven by another person for the thrill of the activity. Since the activity generates potentially lethal consequences even at low automobile speeds, parents’ proactive discussion with teenage children can avert deadly outcomes. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates males between the ages of 15 to 19 years generate 70 percent of the injuries and death.

Parents’ active involvement in teen driving can avert bad outcomes with driving. Driver inexperience leads the cause for teen crashes. When parents continue supervision of their teen for extended time, a crash occurs less often. In addition to discussing the five situations identified by CDC above, parents need to discuss dangers of distracted driving, drowsy driving, reckless driving (speeding, tailgating) and impairment due to drugs or alcohol. The Injury and Violence Prevention and Control Center outlines the complete CDC’s campaign to help parents take a central role in teen safety in driving motor vehicles.


Injuries Resulting from Car Surfing – United States, 1990-2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 57(41):1121-1124

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