Number of fatal crashes involving teen drivers in Mass. jumps to highest level since 2008, AAA says

BOSTON — The number of crashes involving teenage drivers in Massachusetts has jumped to the highest level in more than a decade, a new analysis showed.

Since opening Ben’s Driving Academy four years ago, Ben Musinguzi has taught hundreds of teens to drive.

“Most teenagers are very excited,” he said. ‘They’re excited, they want to learn.”

Musinguzi puts students through 30 hours of class work, which the state requires for licensure of teens, coupled with road tests. And he’s noticed something about young drivers.

“When it comes to blind spots, someone actually has to turn their head and check,” he said. “And if you look at the newer cars they’re making right now, they have blind spot sensors.”

Musinguzi said teens tend to rely on this technology more than their own vision -- something he advises against.

How much is that contributing to teen car crashes in Massachusetts? It’s hard to say. But Lane Violations and Failure to Yield are two of the five leading reasons why teen drivers get into accidents. The others are distracted driving, tailgating and speeding.

Forty-nine drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed in crashes on Bay State roads and highways in 2022, marking the first time that number had eclipsed 40 since 2008 when 56 teens lost their lives in auto wrecks, according to AAA Northeast.

To mark “National Teen Driver Safety Week,” AAA said in analyzed teen driving crash data from the state’s IMPACT crash portal, which showed that there were 16,709 drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 involved in crashes in Massachusetts last in 2022 - equivalent to one teen-involved crash every 32 minutes.

“It is troubling to see statistics going in the wrong direction, especially when it comes to teen drivers,” said AAA pokesperson Mark Schieldrop. “Because they lack experience, their brains aren’t fully developed... they’re not as risk-averse as older folks are. Teens, if they see somebody blow by them going 90 miles an hour, they’re going to be tempted to do the same.”

Perhaps the most troubling part of the AAA report: the fact that some teen deaths might have been prevented by following a simple step: buckling up.

AAA found more than half of the teens killed in car crashes in Massachusetts last year were not wearing seatbelts -- a problem, especially, with teen passengers.

AAA found that the top five contributing circumstances to those crashes were:

  • Driver inattention or distraction (2,590 crashes)
  • Failure to yield right-of-way (1,651 crashes)
  • Following too closely (1,457 crashes)
  • Speeding (932 crashes)
  • Failure to keep in proper lane / running off the road (617 crashes)

“Teen driver crashes affect everybody on the road,” AAA Northeast Senior Spokesperson Mark Schieldrop said. “Parents and caregivers play a critical role in making sure young drivers learn in a safe environment.”

AAA also offered the following tips for parents when talking to their teens about driving:

  • Wear your seatbelt: teens model parents’ behaviors, and wearing a seatbelt is the best protection you can give yourself in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, more than half of teen drivers or passengers who were killed in crashes in Massachusetts last year weren’t wearing their seatbelt.
  • Set limits on other passengers: research shows the risk of a fatal crash dramatically increases when teen passengers accompany a teen driver, but having a parent or guardian in the car decreases the risk of a fatal crash.
  • Sign a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement: aim to lay ground rules for your teen driver that exceed the Junior Operator restrictions.

For more AAA information, click here.

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