As trends often do, this one seems to resurface every year or so. Like most fads, young people looking to impress their peers tend to be the ones to latch on. Unlike some less complicated trends, however, this particular trend has more dangerous implications – car accidents often resulting in traumatic brain injury, physical disabilities and, worst case scenario, in fatalities. It’s called car surfing (or and, unfortunately, the activity isn’t even on most parents radars.
Car crashes are already one of the leading causes for teenage deaths in the United States. Car surfing is an added recipe for disaster, many times including volatile variables like unpredictable motor vehicles, young and inexperienced drivers, and the distractions that necessarily tend to accompany such events. Videos of people successfully completing the act have gone viral, inspiring others to follow suit. The videos should come with an admonishment that viewers “not try this at home,” but many personal injury attorneys already know that such a warning probably wouldn’t act as much of a deterrent. The videos are simply too attractive to thrill-seekers and deceptively fail to depict the associated risk for injury or death. With school out for the summer, and teens looking for thrills to compromise their free time, we are sure to see a resurgence of car surfing accidents.
The pastime’s moniker is extremely appropriate. The “surfer” essentially rides on the hood or roof of the vehicle while another person operates it. But what happens when the driver loses control, or the rider loses his or her grip? If a person who is thrown from a moving vehicle, even one going as slowly as 5 mph, can be maimed or killed, one can only imagine the damage that will be done at faster speeds. Aside from the fact that car surfing is in itself extremely perilous, it becomes even more alarming when the drivers push the limits, topping excessive speeds while a friend joyrides precariously on the car’s exterior.
A female teen, 16-year-old Anna Hawkins of Dawsonville, Georgia was engaging in the pastime earlier this week, when her friend suddenly lost control of the car and struck an embankment. Hawkins lost her life. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia State Troopers are investigating the incident before deciding whether to press charges against the young driver. Possible charges include reckless driving and criminal negligence.
Research on this issue, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, is still relevant today. According to the CDC, Hawkins death may have been anomaly as teen males are much more likely to car surf than young women are. Its website states that “a larger than average proportion of injuries occur among teen males ages 15 to 19” yet interestingly enough, “injuries have been reported among persons ages 10 to 37-showing that car surfing is not an activity in which only teenagers participate.” The fact that influential adults are caving in to the fad is strikingly alarming as well, since it is they who must educate teens about the potentially fatal consequences associated with car surfing.
Although statistics on moving vehicle deaths actually caused by car surfing are scarce, that’s only because it is difficult for analysts to distinguish car surfing death from other moving vehicle accidents. It definitely doesn’t mean that car surfing shouldn’t be of some concern. Parents should talk to their children (and perhaps themselves) about the associated dangers. You should also pay particular attention to whether the phenomenon has gained popularity in your community. The more popular it is, the more likely a child is to try it out.