By Robert Sumwalt
Many people have a fear of flying, and nothing rocks the aviation world’s collective psyche like a tragic airline crash, but did you know that almost 95 percent of transportation-related fatalities occur on our highways? In 2010, more than 32,000 lives were lost in traffic crashes, compared with fewer than 500 in aviation.
Furthermore, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers — more than cancer, more than guns, and more than drugs. This really hits home, since I have a 16-year-old daughter who recently started driving.
Before I started at the NTSB, I did not fully appreciate how dangerous our roads can be, especially for teen drivers. Nor did I know the term “graduated driver licensing,” which means introducing driving tasks to young novice drivers in controlled environments and then “graduating” them to more responsibility as they gain experience.
Knowing what I know now, when my daughter reached driving age I made sure she practiced her driving in controlled situations. Now that she has a license, I insist that she not carry more than one teen passenger at a time. She is also not to text or call on the cell phone while she’s driving. I’m sure she considers me a real drag, but her safety is more important to me than whether she thinks I’m cool.
May is National Youth Traffic Safety Month. This is a great time for us parents to pause and consider how to keep our children safer on the roads, how to teach them to be better drivers, and how to help them make good choices. Through the teen years, our children are growing into adulthood, but it’s still our responsibility to guide and protect them as best we can.
Robert L. Sumwalt has been a Member of the NTSB since 2006. He is a frequent contributor to the blog.