Since 1990, at least 99 fatalities and injuries have resulted from car-surfing, which involves standing or lying on top of the exterior of a car while it is driven.
“We discourage car surfing by anybody,” said John Halpin, M.D., one of the authors of the CDC study. “What we want to do is raise awareness, particularly in parents of teens, making sure they’re aware of the nature of this activity. We want them to know that it can be extremely dangerous and that even at low speeds, this can lead to a fatality.”
Public health agencies do not collect data on whether car surfing causes injuries. Therefore, researchers used Lexis Nexis to identify cases. They found that 58 deaths and 41 nonfatal injuries resulted from car surfing from 1990 to 2008.
Even speeds as low as 5 mph are dangerous and can result in death, according to the report.
“At low speeds, a teen might think it is safe,” Dr. Halpin said. “One thing that makes it so dangerous that (teens) may not anticipate is that the car may swerve or hit a bump, which knocks the car surfer off the car.”
The CDC researchers also found:
70% of those injured or killed were male;
69% were ages 15 to 19; and
cases were reported from 31 states, with 39% reported from the Midwest and 35% from the South.
A new spin-off of car surfing called “ghost riding the whip” is contributing to the rising number of car surfing-related hospitalizations. This new fad was ushered into popular teen culture by a rap song and music video by rapper E-40, in which the lyrics describe how to perform the dangerous stunt.
Ghost riding involves dancing or walking alongside or on top of a car. However, no one is in the car while it is moving. YouTube and other video-sharing Web sites are inundated with videos of teens performing the stunt.