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ODOT Study Examines Teen Start-of-School-Year Car Crash Data

Between August and October each year, especially in the early morning hours, and particularly around 7 a.m. there is a recurring constant throughout Ohio: car accidents with teen drivers behind the wheel.

Ohio safety investigators have always known that teenage motorists are a group unto themselves and scoring at the top (or, more precisely, at the bottom) of virtually every indicator that increases the likelihood of a motor vehicle mishap. In a recent driving study just completed, they have zeroed in on an additional factor that dramatically increases the rate of teen crashes: the start of the school year.

Researchers from the state’s Department of Transportation (“ODOT”) say that crash data analyzed over a recent five-year period clearly reveal that morning accidents involving teens rise sharply when state schools are back in session. They note that, between 2006 and 2010, early morning crashes increased from about 300 in August to more than 600 in September and an even higher number in October, and that most of the accidents occurred when teens were heading off to start their school day.

“It’s the first time we really looked at this data,” says a spokesperson for the ODOT, adding that the knowledge gained can now be applied to reducing accident factors that are especially prevalent in the minutes before school starts.

“That early morning is really, really hard for teens to be focused,” says a researcher. The ODOT states that driver inattention is the leading cause of teen crashes, with speeding, following too closely and failure to yield being central contributors in many accidents.

Sgt. Mark McDonald of the Ohio Highway Patrol says that, “Teens are sometimes less inclined to concentrate on what’s in front of them and instead pay attention to what’s going on around them.”

The suggested prescription for increased safety includes removing all potentially distracting items and features from the car of a teen driver. One “hot-button topic,” according to McDonald is the pending legislation that, if passed, would ban Ohio drivers from texting while driving.

Related Resource: Massillon Independent, “Teens more likely to crash at school year start” Aug. 28, 2011