Car surfing is not likely a widespread teen behavior. Still, it's an activity that continues to pop up in news items on occasion. Given that car surfing is a hugely high risk activity, I believe it's helpful for parents to hear about items like this, even though it will likely never become "mainstream" teen behavior in your locale. But, as we say, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," particularly when it comes to high-risk behaviors. So, add this item to your list of family time discussion topics.
A 16-year-old boy recently lay in a medically induced coma in a hospital in this Atlanta suburb. The same situation befell a 16-year-old girl in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Elsewhere in Florida, a 19-year-old was sentenced in February to a year of house arrest and five years of probation for his part in a stunt that left two of his friends dead.
They were all participants in car surfing, a thrill-seeking activity in which people — mostly teens and young adults — ride on the exterior of a vehicle while it's being driven by another person.
There are no reliable statistics on how many people are hurt or injured each year in the USA while car surfing because police departments and hospital emergency rooms don't track victims.
Whatever the number of victims, incidents of car surfing could increase over the next few months: Teens have more driving freedom when school lets out, and summer is traditionally the most dangerous season for young drivers.
"Teens are risk takers," says Arlene Greenspan, associate director for science at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC and a co-author of the 2008 study. "It's well documented (that) they look at the fun side of things and don't think about the risk."
Many parents might be unaware that car surfing is even one of the dangers awaiting their children. "Parents need to be aware of the risks of some of the things their teens are doing out there," Greenspan says. "They should be addressing these risks with their teens."
In Palm Beach Gardens, Hannah Huntoon, 16, suffered a severe brain injury last month after she was thrown from the trunk of a moving car where she had been standing. "I didn't even know what car surfing was," her mother, Constance Huntoon, told WPBF 25 News. Even at speeds as slow as 5 mph, someone thrown from a moving vehicle can be seriously injured or killed, Greenspan says.