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Rural Teens Take More Driving Risks

A recent article in the Austin American Statesman reveals that teen drivers in rural areas are at a greater risk of being involved in an accident than their urban counterparts. The article was based on a study by the Texas Transportation Institute released Tuesday which shows, among other things that rural teens are more likely to:

  • Drive in a car packed with several other teens
  • Drive after 10 p.m.
  • Talk on a cell phone or send text messages while driving
  • Drive without a seat belt
  • Speed and street race

This may be why 65 percent of teen driving fatalities in 2006 occurred on rural roads. According to Russell Henk of the Transportation Institute, higher speed limits on most rural roads, lack of congestion, and a feeling that “nothing is going to happen to me” create a higher danger risk for urban teens.

Texas leads the nation in auto fatalities and about 500 Texas teens die in crashes each year. Teen drivers are also involved in 22 percent of the state’s car crashes.

The study by the Texas Transportation Institute was based on the driving habits of more than 4,400 teens from 17 high schools across the state and included an analysis of teens’ perceptions of factors that cause car wrecks and included the following findings:

  • Fewer than 1 percent of Texas teens understand that driving at night is unsafe even though it is the most dangerous activity a driver can engage in.
  • Only a third of teens recognize the dangers of driving while talking or texting on a cell phone.
  • Rural teens were far less likely to name alcohol or drugs as a factor behind crashes than urban teens.
  • Rural teens were three times more likely to get speeding tickets
  • Rural teens were twice as likely to drive while using cell phones.

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