Lee County’s Fort Myers-Cape Coral is one of this country’s one hundred largest urban areas. However, it also has another distinction: it has the highest per capita rate of teen driver automobile accidents during the holidays. The Allstate insurance company, which found the unfortunate statistic, claims that an average of 14 teenagers were fatally injured each year between 2000 and 2007 in Fort Myers-Cape Coral.
An Allstate spokeswoman found the average mortality rate significant. Although Tampa, for example, has six times the population of teenagers as Fort Myers-Cape Coral, Tampa also sees less than four times the car crashes. Allstate believes that the urban sprawl of Fort Myers-Cape Coral may contribute to the high numbers of teen car crashes. Fort Myers-Cape Coral is more spread out than other cities in the study (including Tampa) and roads outside a city tend to be faster.
Allstate spokespeople also point out that teen drivers simply don’t have the practical experience with various traffic situations to avoid car accidents. In addition, the holidays are an especially bad time for automobile accidents, since more drivers of all ages are on the roads, taking care of various holiday errands and visiting friends and family. For teenage drivers, the holidays also mean more time on the road because classes are done. Many teen drivers spend time traveling to parties or to visit friends and family, and this places them on the road more often.
A spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol also blames the number of electronic distractions in the average car. Video screens, call phones, MP3 players, and other gadgets can all distract a driver. According to Allstate, 5 000 deaths each year across the country are caused by traffic accidents in which teen drivers are participants. Of these deaths, 625 take place during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she added. In almost 87% of the accidents, driver error is found to be the cause of the crash. In addition to these grim statistics, many car accidents involving teen drivers each year result in serious and even permanent injuries, including burn injuries, head injuries, broken bones, disfigurement, spinal cord injuries and other serious injuries.
According to Allstate, Florida are among the top seven of the top 10 most dangerous cities for teen holiday car accidents. Allstate and other experts do disagree about the accuracy of the findings and the way the study was conducted, but all experts agree that parents need to speak with their teens about driving during the holidays. Most experts also agree that there should be more controls in place to protect teen drivers from distractions.
Parents can help by ensuring that their teens have adequate driver training and experience before driving alone or at night. Parents should also set limits, agree the experts. Parents may want to limit the number of passengers teens are allowed to have in the car, for example, or may want to limit the types of electronic devices teens are allowed to use while driving.