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Teen drivers are disappearing, one “snap” at a time.

May 3, 2016 by Jacob Sanders

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What is it like to watch a car crash happen in real-time?

If you’re a few blocks away, it may look like two cars disappearing into a cloud of dust. If you’re 20 feet away, you see even more details. But if you’re one of the driver’s friends on Snapchat, you may soon receive actual footage of the crash in a “snap,” sent from the driver. And it might be the last “snap” they ever send.

Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. About 963,000 drivers age 16-19 were involved in police-reported crashes in 2013, which is the most recent year of available data. These crashes resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths. As Snapchat use among teens skyrockets into 2016, the reports of tragic and avoidable auto accidents are pouring in from across the globe. These four stories highlight just a small percentage of accidents involving Snapchatting teens.

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April 2016 –

Teen driver snaps a top speed of 107 mph, using Snapchat’s Speed Filter. She looks up from her phone to see her car plowing into another vehicle. Teen survives, and Snapchats her rescue! Both Snapchat and teen are being sued by the victims – a husband and wife – the husband now living with irreparable brain damage.

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February 2016 –

17 year old rolls her car and thankfully sustains only minor injuries. According to troopers, the girl admitted she was texting, using Facetime and Snapchat all while driving. #fail

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July 2015 –

Another 17 year old in Brazil documents her speed of 180 kM LMAO (110 mph) on Snapchat, rolls the car into a field, finds her phone, and continues to – that’s right – Snapchat the wreck and her rescue!

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December 2015 –

Just five days before Christmas, three young Philadelphia women speed down Torresdale Avenue in the early morning. Their speed of 73 mph captured on their final snap,  using Snapchat’s Speed Filter. Their car slams into a tractor-trailer carrying herbicide, and bursts into flames. All three of the women died on the scene, burned alive in the wreckage.

And the list goes on. While Snapchat is the main culprit behind the four accidents mentioned above, the real issue facing new drivers is learning how to operate a vehicle in our distracted world.

Distracted driving

Distracted driving is a public safety hazard that isn’t just affecting teens. Each day in the US, nine lives are lost and 1,153 are injured in distracted driving incidents. In 2009 the President issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment. Distraction.gov is a federally funded website dedicated to informing and eradicating distracted driving from our streets. This is not a passing phase – it is an alarming trend that must be eliminated through education and awareness. Talk to the drivers in your life about focusing on the road, and doing their part to curb distracted driving.

How can injuries and deaths involving teen drivers be prevented?

There are several methods to helping teens become safer drivers. The success of these methods can also depend upon proper participation and re-enforcement by parents and guardians.

Not Drinking & Driving

Minimum legal drinking age laws and zero blood-alcohol tolerance laws must be enforced for drivers under age 21. Drivers in the house that are over 21 should be modeling good decisions, and should also not drink and drive.

Seat Belts

Approximately 56% of the teens (aged 13-20) who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2013 were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Research shows that seat belts decrease serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.

Graduated Driver Licensing Programs (GDL)

Driving is a skill that must be practiced to be learned well. The lack of driving experience, together with risk-taking behavior, and smartphone addiction, puts teens at heightened risk for crashes. The need for skill-building and driving supervision for new drivers is the basis for graduated driver licensing programs. GDL provides longer practice periods, limits driving under high risk conditions for newly licensed drivers, and requires greater participation of parents in their teens’ learning-to-drive. Research suggests that the more comprehensive GDL programs are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers.

Encourage Offline Connection

Both young people and adults say family members spend too much time online at the expense of in-person connections. Parents can set limits on teens’ technology use, emphasize real-life interaction—and remember to practice what they preach. By checking their cell phone frequently, parents may be role-modeling the very behavior they want teens to avoid.


As we allow more and more technology to invade our lives and routines, the chances for distraction, and danger, are increasing. Teens believe they can multitask safely – FaceTime their bestie, drive to school, and Snap their lip-synch to Rihanna at the same time – but they can’t. Adults think they can listen to podcasts, while checking Facebook, while driving to work, while avoiding the Reply All button when quickly responding to a business email – but adults can’t multitask any better. And our misjudgments are costing us dearly.

The need to share our lives, our pictures, our thoughts – to connect with our network, to see our Likes – this doesn’t seem to be going away. So the responsibility falls back on the individual drivers and their support systems to be conscious of their distracted driving habits. Are YOU making a choice to drive and live disconnected?

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