By Morgan Rousseau
Fatal car crashes involving teen drivers in Massachusetts are the highest it has been in 15 years, with distracted driving being the leading cause of the crashes.
Last year, 49 people were killed in crashes that involved drivers between the ages of 16 and 19, according to according to a Boston Globe report citing AAA Northeast. It was the first time the death toll had surpassed 40 in more than a decade and the highest tally since 56 teen-driver-related deaths in 2008.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that motor vehicle accidents are the second-leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., the first being firearms.
According to the AAA Northeast report, 16,709 teen motorists were involved in crashes on Massachusetts roads, equal to one crash every 32 minutes. Distracted driving was a factor in 2,590 crashes; failure to yield to right-of-way caused 1,651 crashes; following too closely led to 1,457 crashes; speeding was a factor in 932 crashes; and failure to stay in the proper lane or running off the road led to 617 crashes.
AAA Northeast urged parents to talk to their teenagers about safe driving.
“Teen driver crashes affect everybody on the road,” said AAA Northeast spokesperson Mark Schieldrop in a statement. “Parents and caregivers play a critical role in making sure young drivers learn in a safe environment.”
The company suggested that parents set an example by wearing seatbelts in front of their kids, as more than half the teens killed in crashes last year weren’t wearing seatbelts. Parents should also set passenger limits to help minimize distraction and create a driving agreement with “ground rules” for teen drivers, experts said.
As reported by the Globe, three teen-driver-related deaths happened in about a month-long period in 2022. The first occurred on Feb. 12, when an 18-year-old died after crashing into a guardrail in Dover. Another 18-year-old was killed on March 18 after driving off a causeway in Marblehead, and a 17-year-old passenger was killed in Marshfield the next day when the driver, 16, hit a tree.
On Tuesday, Gov. Maura Healey’s office announced a $5.4 million grant aimed at improving road safety in Massachusetts.
“Whether by vehicle, bicycle or foot, everyone has the right to travel safely through our communities,” Healey said in a news release. “Through this program, we were able to award grants to every community that requested funding. The education, enforcement and outreach initiatives supported through these grants will help ensure safer roads for all.”
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