In the past five years, it has been reported that more than 5,000 people have been killed in automobile accidents involving teen drivers during the summer weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day. AAA has gone so far as to dub this period the “100 Deadliest Days”. Deaths during these months are at a higher rate than all other times of the year. Mary Maguire of AAA Northeast attributes this spike to the increased hours of driving teens complete in the summer time. Not only do teens spend more time driving, but they also drive greater distances and to places they may be less acquainted with, i.e. the beach or a summer internship.
The average number of deaths from crashes involving teen drivers during the summer months spikes 16 percent as compared to other days during the year. Annually, this totals to more than 1,000 deaths making it the leading cause of death for American adolescents. These crashes are not solely contributed to the inexperience of these young drivers. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety discovered that in 60 percent of these accidents involving teen drivers, the drivers were distracted. By utilizing recorded video, audio, and accelerometer data from dashboard cameras of cars involved in crashes, AAA determined the top three driving distractions for teen drivers. Talking to passengers accounted for 15 percent of distracted driving behaviors. This is followed by texting or talking on the phone, which accounted for 12 percent of accidents. Lastly, distractions inside the vehicle (radio or GPS) were present in 11 percent of crashes.
As cell phones have become an integral part of daily life, the dangers of texting and driving have become better known. Parents and organizations acknowledge this fact and have coined phrases such as “It can wait” in order to spread awareness to teens of the dangers of driving while distracted by a cell phone. Even so, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performed a survey from 2007-2014 and found that the percentage of adolescent drivers found using an iPhone or similar hand-held device quadrupled, now totaling at 4.8%. There is also a study that shows that although using a cell phone to make calls while driving is dangerous, averting one’s eyes to text or use social media while driving is significantly more dangerous. Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states, “They went from a dangerous activity to an extremely dangerous activity”.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting while driving makes the occurrence of a crash 23 times more likely than if the driver were operating the vehicle undistracted. Another important fact to note is that almost two-thirds of victims of crashes involving a teen driver are people other than that teen. Therefore, the spike in accidents during the summer months influences everyone, other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, not just teen drivers. Jennifer Ryan, AAA Director of State Relations, aptly notes, “Everyone has an incentive to keep teen drivers safe during the summer—and all year long—because it makes roads safer for everyone”.
Jansen, Bart. “AAA: 100 ‘deadliest Days’ of Summer: Teens on the Road after Memorial Day.” USA Today. Gannett, 01 June 2016. Web. 03 June 2016.
Salomon, Sanjay. “Why the Summer Is so Dangerous for Teen Drivers.” Boston.com. The New York Times, 01 June 2016. Web. 03 June 2016.
“Teen Drivers Put Everyone at Risk | AAA NewsRoom.” AAA NewsRoom. AAA, 27 May 2015. Web. 03 June 2016.