It is prom season in Knox County. This is the time of year when parents, teachers and other concerned community members most often talk to teens about the importance of safe driving. According to a new report by Knox County Health Department, Knox County teens (aged 15 -19 years) are still texting and driving and engaging in other risky driving behaviors resulting in between 600 and 700 emergency room admissions for motor vehicle crashes each year. Motor vehicle crashes also are the leading cause of deaths among teens in Knox County as they are in Tennessee and the United States.
“No parent should ever get that phone call in the middle of the night that their child has been in a car crash,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “This report gives parents very real evidence of teen behavior while driving. It’s also a great teaching tool to share with your teens to ensure they are aware of the dangers and educated in safe driving practices.”
Teen motor vehicle crashes are thought to be caused by inexperience, speeding or reckless driving, experimenting with alcohol and other drugs, and driver distraction behaviors such as texting while driving or having too many passengers in the vehicle. KCHD’s report Teen Driving in Knox County: Down a Dangerous Road uses county mortality and emergency room visit data to paint a picture on how extensive motor vehicle injuries and mortalities are among Knox County teens aged 15 to 19 years of age.
According to theTeen Driving in Knox County: Down a Dangerous Road:
· Motor vehicle crashes have claimed the lives of 88 Knox County teens (15-19 years) between the years of 1999 to 2009 making it most common cause of death among this age group.
· Teens are more likely to present in Knox County hospitals for motor vehicle injuries compared to all other age groups.
· Four out of ten Knox County schools teens reported they text-messaged someone while they were driving in the past month.
· Twenty percent of five Knox County schools teens rode in a car in the past month driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol during the past month and almost eight percent reported they drove the car themselves after drinking alcohol.
“Death and injuries from motor vehicle crashes are preventable,” said Dr. Martha Buchanan, Knox County Health Department director. “We urge parents to use this information to have direct conversations with their teens about their driving habits and the possible consequences.”
According to Don Lindsey, Public Affairs director at AAA of East Tennessee, parental responsibility does not end the moment children are granted the privilege of driving on their own. According to Lindsey, “Parents can do a lot to keep their teenagers safe by continuing to teach their children about safe driving practices even after they can legally drive on their own.” Lindsey suggests parents go to TeenDriving.AAA.com to find tools, a parent-teen agreement and other materials that can help to keep their children safe on the roads and to continue to support the 2001 Tennessee Graduated Drivers License Law.
To access Teen Driving in Knox County: Down a Dangerous Road on the Knox County Health Department website, please go to: www.knoxcounty.org/health.