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Seat belt use blamed for most teen car accident fatalities

Many Maryland residents may not be surprised to learn that vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among teenagers throughout the nation. The cause of these car accident fatalities might not be what you think, though. Although issues such as texting and driving are constantly in the forefront of the national consciousness, a much simpler factor is at play. Our young people are not wearing their seat belts.

Official reports show that more than half of the young people killed in car accidents in 2012 were not buckled in. Statistics from Safe Kids Worldwide agree with findings from the National Safety Council, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although most of those killed in the accidents were behind the wheel, about two in five victims were passengers that were not wearing their seat belts.

Experts say that teens tend to be risk-takers because of their adolescent attitude. That does not mean that they should necessarily want to ride around unrestrained, however -- much of that behavior is actually modeled by parents. An adult driver who consistently buckles up is far more likely to have a child who does the same thing. Further, officials say that positive peer pressure within a teen group can encourage more youngsters to buckle up.

Young people are vulnerable to accident and injury not only because of their inexperience while driving, but also because of their failure to use necessary safety equipment. Regardless of whether they were wearing a seat belt, though, victims may be entitled to financial compensation from the driver who caused the car accident. Family members may be able to recover damages for wrongful death and medical expenses even if it appears as though the young person was not restrained in the vehicle.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Auto accidents biggest killer of teens; lack of safety belts, inexperience to blame" No author given, Jun. 19, 2014

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