You’ve got a kid who is about to get their driver’s license, or maybe recently passed the driving exam. For a lot of parents, this is cause for nail biting and late night pacing, worrying if your child will be involved in an accident. It’s no secret that younger drivers are more likely to get hurt when behind the wheel.
Auto accidents are the number one killer of teens. Although drivers under 20 years of age were involved in 13% of accidents, they only account for 5% of all drivers.
So, what can you do as a parent to ensure good driving habits in your teenage kid?
The answer is pretty easy, actually. Be a good role model!
A recent Parent & Teen Safe Driving Survey by Travelers Insurance Company revealed that teens who feel their parents are positive role models as drivers are 50% less likely to be in an automobile accident. The survey also concluded that an overwhelming 96% of teens had conversations with their parents about safe driving.
This comes as great news, right? Being a positive role model and communicating are simple, convenient ways to shore up your child’s driving habits and make those formative years on the road a whole lot safer.
Your teen can develop solid gold driving habits when you model and discuss these behaviors:
- Defensive Driving – Teach your child to anticipate other drivers’ mistakes. Nearby vehicles may stop, slow down, speed up or turn unexpectedly, potentially causing an accident. The defensive driver will learn to expect the unexpected and alter their behavior beforehand to avoid danger.
- Automobile Maintenance and Safety – Some states require annual vehicle safety inspections, and maybe you are diligent about keeping up with regular car maintenance. Despite this, mechanical problems can still befall us. Teach your teen to be on the alert for any strange sounds or unusual mechanical or electrical behavior and report it immediately. Let them know catching a problem early can prevent costly and catastrophic parts failure.
Bonus Tip: All drivers, including teens, should learn some basic do-it-yourself maintenance, which you can find on our Car Safety Checklist.
The Big No-Nos
Another way to set a good example is by not doing certain things. Distracted or impaired driving should be avoided and discussed with teen drivers as something that never, under any circumstances, should be done.
Bonus Safety Tip: In addition to talking to your kids about the life-threatening consequences of distracted driving, consider revoking driving privileges if they are caught. Apps are available that allow you to monitor when your child makes phone calls or sends texts. You can also have your child take a pledge against distracted driving.
Enrolling teens in a reputable driving school will teach them the rules of the road, and also instill practical skills like parallel parking, avoiding obstacles, and how to drive in poor weather conditions. Learning this, and practicing it with an instructor, can go far in preventing an accident if your child is faced with real-life situations later.
Bonus Tip: Be involved in your kid’s driving education; don’t entirely rely on a driving school to instruct your child. You’ve got a lot of driving knowledge to pass on and it will also be a memorable bonding experience for the two of you – even if you don’t come to find amusement in it until years later.
The state of Alabama has a motor vehicle accident death rate that is twice the nation’s rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are a number of driver behaviors that contribute to our state’s high incidence of car accident mortality – such as speeding and not using seatbelts.
Good driving habits certainly can help reduce our likelihood of being in a deadly accident. There are other factors, however, over which we have little to no control.
One such factor is the closure of rural hospitals.
The fact is that deadly accidents occur more often in rural areas than urban locales. The Alabama Rural Health Association finds that rural residents are 56% more likely to be in a deadly accident than urbanites.
So, why do accidents in rural locations – where fewer hospitals can be found – have such high mortality rates? The answer is at least in part due to something called the “golden hour.”
The Golden Hour
The “golden hour” is not the rich natural light that makes for outstanding atmosphere during an evening walk. Instead this phrase refers to the 60-minute window in which car accident victims should arrive at a trauma center. Their likelihood of surviving a serious accident is greatly enhanced when they can make it to a medical care facility within this time limit.
Every minute that passes before an ambulance arrives at an accident scene is critical – even life-threatening. An ambulance that has to travel dozens of miles into a rural area can take much longer to get to the scene than if the ambulance were merely heading down a city street. A severe accident that requires specialized equipment – like the “jaws of life” – may have even longer response times.
Of course, once EMTs arrive, victims then need to be stabilized and transported to a hospital for proper treatment. Taken all together, accident victims in rural areas have a lower chance of making it to a medical facility equipped to treat their wounds within the golden hour.
Rural Hospitals Shutting Their Doors
Rural areas have fewer hospitals per mile and even fewer trauma centers. An intake center or ER in a rural location can probably help you out if you break an ankle while playing a game of pick-up basketball, or if you need an IV for a bad case of the flu.
A rural hospital will probably not have the resources to treat trauma injuries deriving from a serious road accident. Internal bleeding, multiple fractures or traumatic brain injury (TBI) are all common car accident injuries that an emergency room trauma unit would be best able to handle.
While hospitals and trauma centers have historically been few and far between in rural areas, the situation is only getting worse. Financial problems over the last few decades have forced many rural hospitals to close down, or significantly reduce their services, including trauma-related services. In the last 5 years alone, 10 rural hospitals in Alabama have closed:
- Chilton Medical Center
- Cooper Green Mercy Hospital
- Hartselle Medical Center
- Infirmary West
- Florala Memorial
- Elba General
- Searcy Hospital
- Greil Memorial Psychiatric
- Randolph Medical Center
- Southwest Alabama Medical Center
Hospital closures in rural areas are not unique to Alabama though. Our state is a part of a nationwide trend. Between 2010-2014, 47 rural hospitals across the country stopped providing inpatient services, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.
So What Can You Do?
The old adage goes that we should focus on that which we can control and let go of what we cannot. Little can be done to reopen hospitals or improve services at existing hospitals – besides maybe pleading to local officials. As drivers, we can decrease our chances of being in a deadly accident by practicing good defensive driving skills.
Some basic good driving habits would be: obey traffic laws and speed limits, focus on the road and not your phone or other distractions, wear your safety belts, and never get behind the wheel after drinking.
Pittman, Dutton & Hellums wants you to be safe while traveling over our state’s highways and byways. If you are in a vehicle accident, we have decades of proven experience that can go to work for you. Contact us for a free case evaluation to learn more.
A recent study named Alabama sixth in the list of states with the most dangerous roads. These findings were based on data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety given to the Federal Highway Administration. Shockingly, for every 100,000 residents in Alabama, there are 17.6 road deaths. In 2013 alone, 852 people lost their lives in vehicular crashes along our state’s roadways.
Do Certain Roads Have More Accidents?
Sometimes it seems like the news reports accidents in the same areas of town, even on the same streets and highways. There might even be roads that you avoid, especially during rush hour, because all too often they are jammed up due to an accident. Are certain roads plagued with more car accidents than others?
Some roads are, in fact, more likely to be the scene of a vehicular collision. It could be that the road is in poor condition, or has certain features that make it crash-prone, such as blind curves or lane transitions that are too fast.
To give the public a better idea of how safe our nation’s roadways are, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collected crash data for every state between 2009-2013. The information sheds interesting light on patterns in automotive crashes, including their location. Below are a few highways in our state that featured prominently in the NHTSA report.
Interstate 85 in Lee County & Montgomery County
I-85 serves as a major thoroughfare for our state, connecting Montgomery with a number of key Alabama cities, as well as Atlanta, Georgia. It is a favorite route for both local and long-distance travelers.
During the study’s five-year span, the stretch of Interstate 85 in Lee County recorded a high number of fatal crashes, with 26 deaths in 22 crashes. In Montgomery County, the interstate witnessed 15 fatalities in 11 accidents over the five-year period.
Interstate 65 in Chilton County
Interstate 65 meanders over 367 miles of our countryside and links together six of Alabama’s ten largest cities. The section of this road in Chilton County saw 16 fatal crashes that resulted in 21 deaths. Just last year (2015), three car accident deaths occurred along this stretch of the interstate.
Dangerous Roads in Jefferson County
It should come as no surprise that Jefferson County, the most populous county in the state, bears witness to the most accidents. During just one two-week period in 2014, 300 accidents occurred – that’s nearly one accident per hour. The roads that served as the locale for most of those collisions were:
5) Hwy 31 with 23 accidents
4) Hwy 280 with 32 accidents
3) I-459 with 36 accidents (including 1 fatality)
2) I-65 with 45 accidents
1) 20/59 at Arkadelphia Road with 48 accidents (including 4 fatalities)
The Infamous Highway 431
This major north-south state highway in the eastern portion of Alabama has earned a devilish nickname: “Highway to Hell.” It was named one of America’s most dangerous roads by various media outlets, including Popular Mechanics. In 2014, it was actually labeled one of the world’s most perilous roads by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their Global Status Report on Road Safety.
Why has this highway earned such a terrible reputation?
The facts speak for themselves. In 2013, Hwy 431 was the 4th deadliest road in the U.S. If you drive down it, the crosses and flowers bear witnesses to the number of lives taken on this tarmac.
Contributing to the road’s danger is reduced visibility of oncoming traffic, sudden changes in the number of lanes, and speeding. Fortunately, the state has been working to make the road safer by widening dangerous narrow stretches, replacing bridges and increasing State Trooper patrols to the area.
Keeping You Safe
As a driver, of course you have little to no control over the road conditions. If the asphalt needs to have pot holes filled, there’s nothing you can do about it while driving, besides being very careful. The same goes for a road that should be engineered for improved safety features, like having a longer on-ramp. As always, the best way to stay safe on roads that statistically have more accidents is the same way to be accident-free anywhere: be a defensive and cautious driver.
Pittman, Dutton & Hellums wishes you safe travels, and are here to help if you’re injured in an auto accident. We are a Birmingham personal injury law firm with a solid record of success in handling Alabama motor vehicle accident cases.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, we’d like to help you on the road to recovery. You can contact us today at (866) 515-8880 for a free case evaluation. A consultation is always free and at no obligation to you.