Holiday Season Dangerous Time for Teen Drivers
The Allegheny County Health Department is cautioning that the holiday season can be an especially dangerous time of year for teen drivers.
While crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers throughout the year, such crash fatalities are even higher during the Christmas and New Year holidays.  Drivers 16 to 20 are particularly vulnerable due to their inexperience and higher likelihood for taking risks.
More teens die as a result of alcohol- or drug-impaired driving than from all other causes combined.  In 2009, drivers 16 to 20 were involved in 27,362 crashes in Pennsylvania and 1,286 of those crashes were alcohol-related.  In Allegheny County, there were 65 alcohol-related crashes involving drivers 16 to 20 and 31 of them were injured or killed.
Health officials remind teens and parents that underage drinking is deadly serious and hosting a party where alcohol is served to minors is not only illegal but extremely dangerous for teens, others in the community and parents themselves given the legal liabilities they face.
Nevertheless, every year teens consume alcohol at parties in their own homes or in the homes of friends and end up getting hurt or killed on highways.
Teens are also reminded to buckle up, regardless of where they sit in a vehicle.  Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in crashes.  In 2009, 104 drivers 16 to 20 who were injured in crashes in Allegheny County were not wearing seat belts.
Aggressive driving, particularly speeding, is another major cause of crashes involving young drivers.  In 2009, speed-related crashes in Allegheny County involving drivers 16 to 20 played a part in the injuries of nearly 150 youths in the same age group.
Other aggressive driving by teens includes running red lights or stop signs, making unsafe lane changes and tailgating. Such dangerous driving becomes even more risky during the winter months under snowy and icy conditions.
Inexperience and immaturity increase the possibility of a crash, especially when combined with speeding, impaired driving, not wearing seat belts, drowsy driving, driving at night, and distracted driving caused by cell phone use, loud music or having many teen passengers.  
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teens driving with two or more teen passengers have a five times greater risk of being in a fatal crash.
Here’s how you can help:
 Parents should know and enforce driving and traffic laws and always know where their teens are and with whom they are traveling.
Young drivers need constant reminders to seriously consider the consequences of drinking and driving.
Teen drivers should drive defensively, restrict teenage passengers and not allow distractions while driving.
For more information concerning aggressive driving, Pennsylvania’s seatbelt laws and laws on Driving Under the Influence (DUI), contact the Health Department’s Traffic Safety Education Project at 412-247-7821.