CNN published findings from a report today in which the rise in accidental deaths among young people in America are analyzed. For many years, the total death rate among 10-19 year olds declined significantly, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decrease was between the years 1999 and 2013 and represented a 33% decrease in accidental deaths; however, between 2013 and 2016, the death rate rose 12%. Tragically, car accident fatalities play a large role in the uptick.
The increase in accidental deaths and serious injuries is not only attributed to car crashes, however. As the table below shows, drowning, suicide, homicide, and poisoning are also causing more deaths in recent years than in the past. Many experts point the blame at easily accessible recreational drugs and social media. Even as other causes of death and permanent injury rise in other areas, the fact remains that among 10 to 19 year-old adolescents, traffic injuries were the leading cause of death in 2015. The US Department of Health and Human Services' report entitled Deaths: Leading Causes for 2015 is an easy to read, informative study that would likely be of tremendous value to parents of children and teenagers. If nothing else, it gives parents and youth alike an objective reference point that shows the dangers young people around the world face. As parents often face a challenge from teenagers not wanting to hear it from their mom or dad, the study and data are indisputible proof that car accidents (shown in the table as "motor vehicle traffic") is, without question, a serious cause of unintentional injury and death among youth.
Parents interested in the data presented in this study may also benefit from visiting the National Vital Statistics System, which tracks public health data and includes statistics on vital matters such as traffic deaths, pedestrian versus auto deaths and injury, and drug and alcohol-related injury and death.
What Can Concerned Parents Do?
The statistics showing an increase in traffic deaths do not specifically mention California, but California drivers are part of the data set, and the causes of death and injury most certainly apply to young people living here. Parents can first help their families and loved ones by being aware of the threats and familiarizing themselves with the numbers. Once parents understand the threats to young peoples' safety, they can have a more insightful conversation with their kids and teenagers about the issues. Some marriage and family therapists recommend printing off data such as the studies referenced here, and allowing the teenager or young adult to review the material for themselves before trying to talk too in depth about the issue. Jumping right into it can come off as "preachy," and many young teenagers are becoming more comfortable with their own analysis skills and ability to form an educated opinion. Have them read it and ask them what they think.
Set Rules, Set an Example
Car accident deaths are often the result of a bad combination of texting while driving, alcohol or drug use, careless or distracted driving, or any combination of these factors. Checking your phone when driving can be a against family rules, for example, although for the rule to have any weight, parents must obey it too! The more young people see their parents practicing safe driving habits, the more likely they are to incorporate these habits into their own driving.
Discuss The Obvious
California residents who have driven here for a long time sometimes do not realize that our roads are, in many ways, not the norm. Not everyone is aware that the bad traffic and seemingly crazy driving on the 405 and 5 Freeways are actually especially dangerous and chaotic - not every freeway or highway is like this. In Southern California, for example, we have some of the most dense population, with the large majority of working adults commuting to and from work in their own vehicle, instead of using public transportation. This presents a unique challenge - our roads are more busy, and the volume of drivers using our roads and freeways is extremely high. Young drivers need to know that not only are they relatively new to the challenges and dangers of operating powerful and heavy vehicles, they are doing so in an especially dangerous place. It's ok to discuss the frequent car accidents and scary crashes we see on the side of the road with our teenagers. After all, many of California's metro areas are among the most dangerous driving thoroughfares in the country!
Helping Teenagers Respond to Crashes
Despite our best efforts, parents cannot prevent crashes, and whether or not it was your teenager's fault that a car crash happened, your loved one needs to know how to respond in the event they are part of a car wreck. They need to know that they have to pull over and call the police if anyone was injured. They may not know that they need to take photos of the scene of the crash, ask that a California Highway Patrol report, or local police report, be taken. Your loved one should know that if they may be hurt or injured, they need to seek proper medical attention, which may include an ambulance ride to a nearby hospital or urgent care facility in order to assess their injury.
Many teenagers will resist this, but it can be a crucial step in diagnosing the extent of their injury. In California, the police and Highway Patrol are supposed to ask if the injured wants to be transported to a hospital. Also, teenagers are in the stage of life where they are starting to understand money and financial constraints, so they should know that if they do take the ambulance or go to the doctor, the other driver's insurance company can be held responsible for paying the bills (assuming the car crash wasn't their fault). Taking photos of the scene of the wreck is an easy one for young drivers to do, but some don't know that they should take pictures of the vehicles involved, the scene of the crash, the surrounding area, and any bruises or lacerations they may have gotten during the car crash.
Seek Appropriate Counsel
After a car accident, adults and teenagers alike may have questions - this is normal, and the road to financial and physical recovery can be tricky and confusing. Dealing with medical bills, police reports, insurance companies and auto repair shops can take a toll on your wallet and your nerves. Depending on the extent of your injuries, it may be wise to discuss your crash and your injury with a lawyer or attorney who handles personal injury cases. There are many injury law firms in California who handle cases throughout the state. A good injury attorney will be able to point you in the right direction, give you a general evaluation or assessment of the value and strength of your case, and help you get a fair and reasonable settlement for your pain and suffering. You should never have to pay up front, as most law firms who handle injury cases work on a contingency fee and only take a fee if they win your case.