DEKRA Publishes US Road Safety Report
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Keeping teens safe behind the wheel

DEKRA Publishes US Road Safety Report

Aug 2016

  • Car accidents are the most common cause of death among US teens
  • Driver inattention greatly increases the risk of an accident
  • Major safety gains thanks to automated in-vehicle systems

According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, seven teenagers between the age of 16 and 19 die in road accidents every day in the US. In relation to distance traveled, this age group is three times more likely to be involved in fatal road accidents than road users aged 20 and above. In the future, therefore, road safety among this extremely vulnerable age group needs to be increased significantly. The first DEKRA Road Safety Report published for the US aims to make its own contribution here, too. The report focuses solely on teen drivers, highlighting the areas with the greatest potential for a sustainable reduction in the number of road accident victims and describing the challenges this involves for people, technology and infrastructure.

The figures speak for themselves: although young drivers account for just 6% of all license holders in the US, they are involved in 9% of fatal accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,717 young people between the age of 15 and 20 died at the wheel of a vehicle in 2014 in the US. An estimated 170,000 were injured in car crashes. Compared with 2013, this represents an increase in fatalities of around 1%. But there is some good news: The number of teenagers involved in fatal accidents has fallen by 50% over the last ten years.

"Nevertheless, for everybody involved it remains a major challenge to reduce the number of teenagers killed or injured at the wheel," emphasized Clemens Klinke, member of the Management Board of DEKRA SE and responsible for the Automotive business unit, on the publication of the first DEKRA Road Safety Report for the US. "As an expert organization that has dedicated itself to improving road safety in the US for many years, we attach great importance to making a contribution to ensure that fewer and fewer teenagers are involved in accidents on the roads," explained Donald O. Nicholson, president and CEO of DEKRA North America.

On the Road to "Vision Zero"

As the report shows, also among young drivers, human error is one of the main causes of accidents resulting in personal injury and/or material damage. It is therefore easy to see why, for many years, the automotive industry has been placing ever more importance on driver assistance systems such as emergency braking systems, distance control, lane keeping assist or fatigue warning systems. These are all systems that can detect critical driving and traffic situations at an early stage, provide warnings of dangers and even actively intervene if necessary. Systems like these are now standard or available at a comparatively low cost in high-volume small and medium-sized vehicles. When purchasing a vehicle, parents of young drivers should therefore make sure that these types of systems are installed. In DEKRA’s view, a further objective must be to ensure that every safety-related system functions reliably throughout the entire useful life of the vehicle, therefore drivers should never neglect to have the cars maintained and serviced. Periodic vehicle inspections can also make a key contribution to improving road safety.

In addition to vehicle technology, when it comes to road safety among teenagers, basic driver training is another factor that plays a decisive role. This also applies to infrastructure, road construction, legislation, traffic monitoring, emergency services, road safety education and other preventive measures. Furthermore, in the US, DEKRA recommends the implementation of the "Vision Zero" safety initiative at local, state and national level. Its aim is to cut the number of road users killed or seriously injured in road accidents to zero. On a federal level, NHTSA has already developed programs that focus on the "4 Es" of road safety: Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services. "Vision Zero" goes one step further, adding the terms "Evaluation" and "Equity." At the same time, it follows a system-wide, data-supported approach for making roads safer which are considered to be accident blackspots.

DEKRA's Demands for Greater Road Safety among Teenagers

  • Driver training must place specific emphasis on anticipatory traffic observation and hazard avoidance skills.
  • Parents should set an example to young drivers in relation to safety-conscious and responsible behavior on the road and encourage this behavior in the long term.
  • In addition to a high level of acceptance of rules, road users should keep up to date on changes to traffic regulations and brush up on their knowledge on a regular basis.
  • Education on the high risk of accidents linked to inattention because of smartphones must be reinforced with effective public information campaigns.
  • As the most important life saver, the safety belt must be worn on all seats at all times.
  • Vehicles must be in perfect technical condition.
  • The functionality of mechanical and electronic components in vehicle safety systems must be guaranteed throughout the vehicle’s entire lifetime and, for this reason, must be regularly inspected in a professional workshop.
  • The police should implement more effective controls at potential danger areas to identify traffic offenders (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, driving too close, etc.) and remove them from the road if necessary.
  • A preventive and interdisciplinary approach to road construction or road improvements is indispensable to ensure that accident black spots do not occur in the first place.
  • The course of the road must be foreseeable and identifiable at all times, making regular maintenance or renewal of road markings essential.