We are saddened by the deaths last week of two Aurora Central Catholic High School students from a motor vehicle accident as they were traveling from Aurora, Ill., to a sectional basketball game between the ACC Chargers and Marengo in Rochelle, about 45 miles west of Aurora, WGN-TV reports.
Allison “Ally” Bradford and Seth Egger, both 16 years old, were passengers in an SUV driven by another teen when it struck a semitrailer on Route 38 just west of Interstate 39. In foggy weather, the SUV and its six occupants struck the semi and went partially under it, seriously injuring the driver and killing Ally and Seth.
The City of Aurora posted a comment on the article, saying, “Our condolences are with the entire Aurora Central Catholic High School Community and the families and friends of the two young Chargers who passed away in such a tragic car accident last night. We’ve talked with many members of the ACC family throughout the night, and we join together as one supportive community as we mourn the loss of these two bright lights gone too soon.”
Pages on GoFundMe (Ally, Seth) have been established to help cover funeral expenses, several news sources noted, including the Chicago Tribune. Using the hashtag #Pray4ACC on Twitter, family and friends quickly spread the word about the accident and arrangements.
According to a report on WLS-TV (ABC affiliate, Chicago), police said the Acura SUV, driven by a 17-year-old ACC senior, ran a red light going westbound on Route 38 and hit the semi. The driver was cited for running a red light.
Teen drivers at higher risk with teen passengers
Perhaps one of the best summary reports on the subject of teenage driving mistakes that lead to accidents with fatalities was published by the National Research Council. It’s in a book entitled Preventing Teen Motor Crashes: Contributions from the Behavioral and Social Sciences: Workshop Report, available on Amazon.com.
Car crashes kill more teenagers than any other cause, according to research cited in the book (1). The number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents divided by the number of all deaths among 16- to 19-year-olds was 36.5 percent for young men and 46.5 percent for young women. In other words, between one-third and one-half of all 16- to 19-year-olds who die of anything die in a car crash.
“From a public health perspective, motor vehicle crashes are among the most serious problems facing teenagers,” write the authors. Most striking in the data are the increased risks faced by teen drivers who carry teen passengers. In one study presented (2), authors set the crash risk for 30- to 59-year-old drivers at 1.00, noting that the risk for drivers in this age group doesn’t change as the number of passengers increases. Then, they found:
- 16-year-old drivers have a crash risk of 2.28 when driving alone and 4.72 when driving with one or more teen passengers in the car. That means 16-year-old drivers carrying teenage passengers are almost five times more likely to get into an accident than 30-year-olds driving with passengers.
- For 17-year-olds, the solo crash risk is 1.77, while the risk with passengers is 3.52.
- 18-year-olds experience a slightly larger increase, from 1.77 when driving alone to 3.66 when carrying teen passengers.
- And, the crash risk for 19-year-olds doubles when they carry passengers, going from 1.61 to 3.23.
Major factors in teen car crashes
The factor most responsible for accidents involving teen drivers, according to the conference proceedings, is the reduced skill on the driver’s part, including “the capacity to operate the vehicle and to recognize hazards, as well as the capacity to react appropriately to the unexpected.” The Illinois State Police said a fog advisory had been issued for the area where the crash occurred in this case.
Other causes of teenagers’ accidents include a limited knowledge of traffic rules and operating procedures, as well as of risks and their potential consequences; less behind-the-wheel experience in different and possibly adverse conditions; and a lower maturity level in terms of reasoning, judgment, and decision making.
The common teenage driving errors
The report noted that teens most commonly get into accidents when they fail to:
- pay attention to the road and avoid distractions (e.g., cellphones)
- look ahead of where they are to where they’re going, such as in left turns
- look to the side or to the rear, such as when changing lanes
- adjust speed in response to traffic, road, or driving conditions
- maintain a correct following distance
- respond to driving emergencies, such as skids or obstacles
- stay within lanes or turn smoothly
- obey traffic control signs and signals
- get enough sleep or avoid the use of alcohol or other illegal drugs
(1) D’Angelo LJ. Behind the wheel: A health care provider looks at teen driving. Presentation for the Workshop on Contributions from the Behavioral and Social Sciences in Reducing and Preventing Teen Motor Crashes (May, 15, 2006). Washington, DC.: National Academies, 2006.
(2) Preusser DF, Ferguson SA, Williams AF. The effect of teenage passengers on the fatal crash risk of teenage drivers. Accident Analysis and Prevention 30(2):217–222 (1998).