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Driving a car means freedom, but it also comes with a great deal of responsibility and risk. For some teenagers, it can be difficult to fully appreciate that risk.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenage drivers are more likely than older drivers to make critical errors that result in serious crashes. For example, they are more likely to speed and less likely to keep a safe distance between vehicles. Young people ages 15 to 19 make up slightly more than 6% of the population. Yet, the CDC reports that in 2016, they were responsible for 8.4 percent ($13.6 billion) of total motor vehicle injury costs.

While teens present a greater danger behind the wheel than adults, more teens are taking preventive safety measures when they drive than ever before. In 1991, 25.9% of teens said they rarely wore their seat belt; today, that number is down to 5.9%%. Similarly, drinking and driving among teens has improved over the years. From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of teens who said they drink and drive fell from 10 to 5.5%. Yet, it is important to note that teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes when they do drink and drive.

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Despite improvements in seat belt use and impaired driving, national data shows no significant change in the number of teens who said they text and drive. From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of teens who engaged in this behavior remained flat at approximately 40%.

At the state level, teen texting and driving shows a statistically significant positive correlation with teen motor vehicle fatalities by population. In general, states with more teens who text and drive also have more teens who die in motor vehicle accidents.

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Researchers at 360 Quote identified the states with the most dangerous teenage drivers. They created a composite score for each state based on several metrics, including the percentage of teens who text and drive, the percentage of teens who drink and drive, the percentage of teens who rarely wear a seat belt, and the teen traffic fatality rate per 100,000 teens.

The study found South Carolina teens are some of the most dangerous drivers in the nation. In South Carolina, 45.4% of teens reported texting and driving, 7.5% of teens reported drinking and driving, and 6.8% reported rarely wearing a seat belt. Considering these factors, the analysis ranked South Carolina teens the 10th most dangerous in the U.S.

Here is a summary of the data for South Carolina:

• Teens who text & drive: 45.4% (15.8% worse than average)

• Teens who drink & drive: 7.5% (36.4% worse than average)

• Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 6.8% (15.3% worse than average)

• Teen traffic fatality rate: 14.3 per 100k (19.4% worse than average)

According to data from the S.C. Department of Public Safety, there were 6,154 injuries and 46 fatalities from a crash involving a teen driver in South Carolina in 2017. We can do better -- and parents can play a key role in preventing the ultimate nightmare of losing a child to a crash.

AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, advises:

• Explain to your teen how to minimize distractions, such as eating, drinking, using navigation, chatting with a passenger or reaching for things in the car.

• NEVER allow your teen to use their phone while driving.

• Emphasize the importance of seat belt usage at all times – for the driver and their passengers.

• Remind teens of the importance of driving to the conditions of the road and always following the speed limit.

• Educate teens about the dangers of drinking and driving by having conversations early on and teaching by example.

See the full 360 Quote report on teen driving at https://www.carinsurance101.com/deadliest-teen-drivers-by-state/

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