Up to Speed

Expert Offers Survival Rules for Teens

Anyone familiar with the devastating statistics knows that inexperience plus a driver’s license can be a dangerous combination. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens.

Dr. Corey Slovis, professor and chair of emergency medicine, has been an emergency medicine physician for more than two decades. “Teen drivers are the best and the worst on the road,” he says. “They have great reflexes and usually great vision and hearing—but, unfortunately, they sometimes do not have the best judgment and may be overconfident. Expertise in sports takes lots of practice, and so does becoming an expert driver.”

Slovis has taken years of experience as a seasoned trauma center physician and distilled its essence into five rules of the road:

Rule No. 1: No texting. “There is not one study, experiment or expert who has suggested that anyone can safely text and drive—or even read texts and drive,” Slovis says.

Rule No. 2: No drinking. “Thinking you can safely drink and drive is why about 10,000 people die each year in this country from alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.”

Rule No. 3: Use seat belts. Always. “I always hear about someone who knew someone who was told that if they had not been safely thrown from the car, they could have been killed,” Slovis says. “I’ve never seen that person. But I’ll tell you who I do see: critically injured, paralyzed, head-injured or DOA (dead on arrival) patients who were ejected from cars because they were unbelted.”

Rule No. 4: Drive a vehicle with air bags. “Odds are you will do dramatically better and maybe even walk away from a potentially fatal accident if you are both belted and in a car that has airbags.”

Rule No. 5: Keep distractions to a minimum. “A loud radio playing or multiple people in the car yelling or vying for the driver’s attention means less focus on the road.”