Car crashes affect teen drivers


art by Joanne Lee

Kirsten Buchanan

On average there are more than six million car accidents on the roads of the United States annually.

Senior Kay Fischer has seen her share of these numbers; she’s been in four accidents.

“I would say about half [of the accidents] were my fault … because there have been some that weren’t my fault at all, and there were some that were partially my fault,” Fischer said. “I’ve been rear ended twice – not my fault at all. And then I was in an accident … when me and another car both thought it was our turn and went and collided in the intersection, and my car was totaled.”

While 20 percent of car crashes involve a teen driver, being in so many crashes has set Fischer apart from her friends. She feels like she’s not as good of a driver as her peers because none of her friends has been in as many accidents as her. However, she attributes her number of crashes to bad luck rather than solely to her driving skills.
“When I first got my license I was extremely cautious because I was so scared to be driving. After a while, I got more comfortable driving,” Fischer said. “I guess I would say I was a little less concerned, but still careful. But after being in so many accidents, I’m much more cautious and I drive quite a bit slower.”

Acting Sergeant Curtis Perkins, the Columbia Police Traffic Unit Supervisor, said speeding, tailgating and failing to yield to the right of way at intersections are common causes of teen car accidents.
“Typically, a lot of our crashes involve younger drivers,” Perkins said. ” I would say younger drivers under the age of 25 do account for a significant portion of our crashes.”
Though car crashes are the leading cause of deaths among teenagers, Fisher has never injured herself or anyone else in a car accident. This is not the case for sophomore Casie Levy; although she was young when she was in a crash, the memory of the incident still haunts her.

“I was in the backseat, behind the driver, and my head hit the window. I got a black eye and had to take a CAT scan, but nothing was wrong, just a really bad headache,” Levy said. “From what I remember the car wasn’t totaled, but the front of the car was all bent, and both headlights were out.”
Although the accident had no lasting physical damage to Levy, it still influences her now that she has her license. Being injured in the crash taught her the danger of reckless driving; in 2010, MODOT found one person was killed or injured in a young driver related traffic crash every 35.5 minutes in Missouri.
“When I’m driving at night, I’m always a little paranoid I might not see a car behind me or in my blind spot,” Levy said. “When I drive I’m always wondering if I’m driving OK for everyone else, but when I see everyone else driving around me [I] relax.”
Relaxing, Perkins said, is one way teens can prevent car accidents. He advised young drivers to follow basic traffic laws such as always wearing a seat belt and not drinking and driving.

 “Do not take unnecessary risks. Limit distractions in the vehicle,” Perkins said. Also, “have parents [or] other responsible adults critique your driving skills, and always look to improve on them.”
By Kirsten Buchanan