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Car Surfing: CDC's Findings on a Dangerous, Thrill-Seeking Activity

Teenage boy and his familyParents and other influential adults should be aware of car surfing, a dangerous activity that can have potentially deadly consequences, even at slow speeds.


National Teen Driver Safety Week

October 19–25 is National Teen Driver Safety Week. It was declared by Congress to highlight the importance of reducing the numbers of car crashes involving teenagers each year.

Teens ages 16 to 19 are at a higher risk of being involved in car crashes than any other age group. And, a new study shows that teens are also among the age group most likely to participate in car surfing, a thrill-seeking activity with potentially deadly consequences.

According to an article published in the October 17, 2008, issue of MMWR, since 1990 at least 99 people died or sustained serious injuries as a result of car surfing, an activity that involves riding on the exterior of a moving vehicle. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention obtained information about car surfing injuries and deaths by reviewing newspaper reports from 1990 through 2008. Their findings answer common questions about this dangerous phenomenon, which appeals to young people, especially teenage males.

What is car surfing?

Car surfing is a dangerous, thrill-seeking activity that involves a person riding on the exterior of a moving vehicle, such as on the roof or the hood, while someone else is driving.

How fast must a vehicle be travelling in order for someone to be injured or killed while car surfing?

Car surfing is dangerous at nearly any speed. Injuries and deaths can occur at speeds as slow as 5 mph to as fast as 80 mph. The most dangerous thing that can happen while car surfing is falling off of a vehicle, which can lead to fatal head injury—even at slow speeds. Sudden, unanticipated maneuvers, such as swerving or braking, can force a person off a vehicle.

What can be done to help prevent teens from car surfing?

We all can contribute to protecting teens by knowing about the risks that they face on the road.

Parents and other influential adults should be aware of car surfing and its potentially deadly consequences. Adults can talk to teens about the real risk of injury and death that car surfing poses.

CDC supports parents' efforts to keep teens safe on the road at all times. Overall, car crashes are the leading cause of death involving teens in the United States. Parents can play a key role in keeping their teens safe by learning about graduated driver licensing laws and ensuring that their teen driver follows the rules of the road.

More Information The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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