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February 18, 2011

More teenagers die from car crashes than from cancer, homicide and suicide combined, according to Dr. Michael Rosen, director of the Pediatric Emergency department at Newark Beth Israel Center. In 2008, 21 of every 100,000 teens died of a car crash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 30 percent of those who died in accidents involving teen drivers were not in cars with teens behind the wheel. What’s more, New Beth Israel Medical Center cites statistics that crash-related injuries and deaths among teens cost about $14 billion in medical care each year.

What to do about it? Parents are the key, according to the CDC, since they can impose strict rules and monitor teen driving, enabling teens to escape peer pressure to drive in uncomfortable situations.

Most teen crashes involve inexperienced drivers, according to the CDC, so parents can make sure teens receive at least 50 hours of supervised practice before heading out on the road. Other high-risk activities include not wearing seat belts (two-thirds of teens killed were not wearing belts) and using cell phones, whether or not hands-free. Speed is also a major factor, as is fatigue: the effects of being awake for 18 hours are similar to being legally drunk.

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