Trauma surgeon provides safety advice during National Teen Driving Safety Awareness Week

Dr. Carrie Watson said many crashes can be prevented by following a few simple safety tips.
Dr. Carrie Watson says many teenage-driver crashes can be prevented by making some simple changes.
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 7:20 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - This week is National Teen Driving Safety Awareness Week.

Parents can relate to that feeling of nervousness and sometimes fear when letting their teen get behind the wheel by themselves.

Fortunately, a local doctor is giving advice to parents to teach their kids to prevent crashes.

Dr. Carrie Watson, a trauma surgeon at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, said 50% of the crashes she sees involve drugs and alcohol. Many of the crashes are preventable.

”It is absolutely heart wrenching to have to go out and tell a family that their 16-year-old’s life was lost from something that could have been prevented,” Watson said.

Watson said she often hears the same reasons behind the crashes—'the music was too loud, we were texting, we did not know where we going.’

”It’s little things like that that seem so small that can change the world in that moment,” she said.

In fact, just this week, Watson said she has had several teens come through the emergency room doors.

”Most of them were driving to practice, driving home from school,” she said.

Watson said many of these crashes can be prevented by just making some simple changes.

She encourages parents to talk to their teens about being prepared before even shifting their gears from park. She also said that limiting distractions like phones and sometimes even friends can be crucial.

Car accidents are the leading cause of injury requiring hospitalization in ages 0-35 from 2020-2022.

Seatbelts are extremely important as well. Piedmont Medical Center keeps statistics on seatbelt use after traffic stops. This is what it found in Rock Hill alone:

  • 16% of passengers in 2020 were not wearing a seatbelt (48% of these were age 35 or under)
  • 25% of passengers in 2021 were not wearing a seatbelt (50% of these were age 35 or under)
  • 25% of passengers so far in 2022 were not wearing a seatbelt (45% of these were age 35 or under)

”With car crashes and incidents being the leading cause of death for the younger population, why are we not doing the small things that could prevent a death?” Watson asked.

She also said thinking about emotional state is a huge part of driving even if we don’t consider it all the time.

”Whenever you’ve been having a rough day, if you’re angry, if you’re frustrated or sleepy, you’ve been up, that’s not a good time to start driving,” she said. “A frustrated teen is two-times more likely to get into an accident.”

And she is giving parents some homework, too. In most cases, they are a teenager’s first driving teachers.

”Kids are going to drive similarly to what they are seeing,” Watson said. “And if they see you not using your blinker and if they see you talking on the phone and driving they’re going to think ‘oh this is fine.’ Mom and Dad are fine.”

Watson said she really hopes parents sit down with their kids and teach them the best driving habits for their sake, and her own.

”If I never have to tell a family again that their 16 or 17-year-old died in a car crash, that would be a good day for me,” she said.

Piedmont Medical Center offered this advice to help give teens before they get behind the wheel:

  • Limit distractions (i.e.texting, phone use, food/drink, applying makeup, etc.). Turn on your ‘Do Not Disturb’ or similar feature on your phone while driving and always remove your headphones.
  • Buckle up every time, and ensure the seatbelt is placed properly over your body. Don’t put the shoulder harnesses behind your back as it won’t protect you from harm in the event of a collision.
  • Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially for teens who lack the experience to react to changing circumstances around their vehicles. Obey the posted speed limit and know that every time the speed you’re driving doubles, the distance your car will travel when you try to stop quadruples.
  • With each passenger in the vehicle, your risk of a deadly crash goes up. Many states have laws for new teen drivers about how many passengers can be in the car, and who can ride with a teen driver. Know the law before you hit the road - it may prohibit you from having any passengers in the vehicle with you.
  • Have a child seat technician evaluate child car seat installation and proper harness placement, particularly the chest clip. Anyone responsible for driving young children should be familiar with the child car seat requirements in that state.
  • The use of alcohol and other impairing substances (prescription drugs, illegal substances, etc.) often leads to accidents and/or injuries. The PMC Trauma Program has partnered with local alcohol and substance abuse organizations to promote awareness, decrease stigma, and educate the community on safe disposal of unused or expired medications to decrease the likelihood of an overdose and/or accident to occur.

Related: Efforts continue to slow down drivers in Charlotte neighborhoods