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Your Accident Prone Teen

If your teenager has had a lot of accidents lately, bike crashes, skateboard wipeouts, or automobile accidents, it may be time to take inventory on what else is going on in your teenager’s life. Some accidents, especially when they occur in a cluster, may not be accidents, but a sign of emotional trouble or a cry for help.

For example, car accidents may be clues that your teen may have a substance abuse problem. Risk-taking behavior, like reckless driving, or getting into fights, may be a sign of serious depression, or even suicidal feelings. In fact, many one-car crashes may be thinly veiled suicide attempts.

If your teen has had a lot of accidents, look at the pressures, changes and losses he may have experienced in the last year. Encourage him to talk about his feelings. Express your willingness to listen and to help. At the same time, set limits on risk-taking behavior by temporarily suspending driving privileges. You might limit access or time spent at other risky activities, making sure that these are adequately supervised.

Help your teen to make safer choices. Let him know that you feel that his health and life are worth saving.

Dr. Wibbelsman, M.D., is an award-winning author and former “Dear Doctor” columnist for Teen magazine. Chair of Adolescent Medicine for the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California, he is chief of the Teen-Age Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. Dr. Wibbelsman is the news anchor for a Bay Area television series, “Medicine in the Nineties”.


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