Car Surfing: Deadly at Any Speed
The CDC warns parents and teenagers that car surfing is very dangerous.
As defined in the CDC report, car surfing is a “thrill-seeking activity that involves riding on the exterior of a moving motor vehicle while it’s being driven by someone else.”
One variation of car surfing is where the surfer on the hood of a moving car. The driver of the car might brake suddenly, causing the surfer to fly off the hood. The injuries caused are usually serious, even fatal.
For this report, the CDC reviewed newspaper archives looking for news reports of deaths and injuries resulting from car surfing. They found a total of 58 deaths and 41 nonfatal injuries connected to car surfing. Most of the deaths involved 15- to 19-year-old teenage boys. The average age was 17.6 years.
Head injuries caused by a bump or blow to the head killed 78 percent of the reported deaths (45 of 58 victims).
People got killed at all speeds. Some fell off cars moving at only 5 mph, others at 80 mph. In 52 percent of the reported deaths, the vehicle was running at well below 30 mph when the car surfer died.
In almost a third (29 percent) of the reported accidents, the primary reason was a sudden maneuver or movement of the vehicle, such as slamming on the brakes or making an abrupt turn. This resulted in the car surfer suddenly falling off the vehicle. This type of fall can be fatal or result in serious injuries at any speed.
Majority of the car surfing accidents happened in August, most of them (74 percent) occurring in the South and the Midwest.
There could actually be more deaths and injuries from similar accidents. The report did not include other types of risk-taking behavior, such as those involving skateboards, leaning out of car windows, or holding onto a car’s rear while riding a bike. It also did not include deaths from ghost riding, which refers to the practice where a driver gets out of and dances beside a moving car (without anybody else taking over the driving).
Whatever form car surfing may take, the CDC says there is no safe way to do it: it is simply too dangerous.
* Talk to your teens about car surfing risks. This is more urgent if the activity has gained attention in your community.