The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day mark the 100 deadliest days for a teenager to be on the road. The weather gets nicer, school lets out, they feel free to do what they want, and hit the road, heading to beaches, parks and parties.
During the “100 Deadly Days” in 2012 nearly 1,000 people were killed in car accidents involving teenage drivers — just over half of those were teens. According to AAA, an average of 261 teens die in car crashes during each of the summer months, a 26 percent increase compared to the rest of the year. Top factors leading to these teen driving fatalities include:
- Inexperience: Crash rates are highest during the first year a teen has a license. You should drive with your teen at least 30 minutes a week even after they get their license. Let them run the errands while you ride in the passenger seat to get some extra experience.
- Night driving: Fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night, but the risk is higher for teens than adults. Give teens a driving curfew of 10:00 pm. Time doesn’t matter, visibility does. Would they rather be cool or dead?
- Driving too fast for road conditions: This is not necessarily because of speeding. It could be caused by circumstances such as driving too fast around curves or at night because of their inexperience. As a parent, talk to your child about the dangers of speeding and driving carefully for different road conditions.
- Not wearing a safety belt: Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. Talk about the importance of wearing seat belts and how wearing them can save their life.
- Alcohol use: Provide teens with a safe way to get home (such as picking them up or paying for a cab) if they or their driver has been drinking. Always be a role model of safe driving behavior and consider tools like a parent-teen driving agreement to set and enforce the “rules of the road” for new drivers.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving involves much more than just texting, though that does play a big part. Here are some potentially lethal driving distractions, one of which is a bigger risk than a cell phone:
- Applying make-up
- Reaching in a purse or looking in the glove box
- Fumbling while performing what seems like a simple task, for instance, changing the radio station
- The threat more perilous than talking or texting on a cell phone — having other teenagers in the car. Having just one single teen passenger increases teen’s crash risk by 44%. That increases as the number of teens in the vehicle increases. In a report by AAA, having friends in the car accounts for drinking and driving, horseplay, riskier driving practices such as speeding, tail-gating and “showing off.” This behavior is also encouraged by teen passengers.
A couple more universal driving safety tips:
- Simply turn the phone off or get an app that doesn’t allow calls and texts to come through while driving
- If using GPS, set it before you start traveling and not while you’re driving
- Avoid eating and drinking in the car
- Ensure everyone is wearing a safety belt
- Watch for children at play in the streets during the summer months
We can let our kids let their hair down and have fun during the summer months without risking their lives. Be vigilant about “road rules” regarding traffic laws, passengers in the car and curfews. Make sure teens get plenty of driving practice so that they may become more experienced drivers. Sign a driving agreement, be a good role model and be straightforward with them. Give them the facts about teen driving accidents. The truth can be terrifying and sometimes “scares people straight.”