The start of summer can be an exciting time for everyone: warmer weather, the end of the school year, vacations, etc. But it also signals the beginning of a more disheartening season. According to research conducted by AAA, the 100 days after Memorial Day (until most school years begin again) are the “deadliest” for teen drivers. One sobering estimate, based on five years of research, is that approximately 1,000 people nationwide will die in automobile crashes involving teenage drivers (between the age of 16 and 19).
Much of this has been attributed to the increased number of teenage drivers on the road – when they are out of school, they are more likely to be driving around – however, this is also compounded by several other factors. For example, distracted driving is an issue for drivers of all ages, but especially for teenagers who are notorious for being “connected” at all times. It is estimated that distracted driving – including both talking and texting on cell phones – is behind almost 60% of crashes that occur over the summer. According to a study done by the University of Iowa which analyzed the final six seconds before a crash (by looking at over 2,000 dash-camera videos of moderate to severe crashes from August 2007 to April 2015) “15% involved talking to others in the car, 12% involved a cell phone (talking, texting, or otherwise operating), and 11% involved looking at or attending to something inside the car.” Additionally, according to Virginia Tech, using a cell phone or other device while driving, makes a crash more than 23 times more likely.
In order to work towards lessening these statistics of close to 10 teen driver-related deaths per day over the summer, it is important to take several different steps as parents, friends, and fellow drivers. If you are the parent of a teen driver, whether or not they recently acquired their license, it is crucial to both be aware of the increased danger of driving over the summer, as well as to communicate and discuss this with your child. Make sure that they understand how texting while driving (or even using their phone in another way) can dramatically increase the risk of crashing – and injuring themselves or others, or even causing a fatality.
Even friends can be extremely helpful in addressing these concerns, even if they fall into the “teenage driver” category themselves. Other studies have shown that distracted driving can occur just as easily as using a cellphone when teenagers are driving around with their friends. This is often because groups of teenagers together in the car (especially when going to a fun destination like the beach, an amusement park, or even the movies) spark energetic conversation or “horseplay” which may end up causing the driver to focus more on what is happening inside the car rather than on the road. It is important for all teenagers, whether driving or not, to understand that their actions inside the car should be respectful of the person driving to not only protect themselves, but also every other driver on the road.
Lastly, other drivers on the road can be more cognizant and alert while driving due to the increased number of teenage drivers during the summer. While it is not the perfect way to protect one’s self while driving, it is certainly important for other drivers to be vigilant and ensure that at least they are not contributing to the number of distracted drivers out there and increasing the risk of automobile crashes and subsequent injuries or fatalities. If you see glaring instances of distracted driving – report it, so that there can be an increased presence of police to crack down on ensuring drivers are being as safe as possible. If you have a teenage driver – communicate with them and try to prevent or reduce distracted driving before it starts.
- NBC News, “100 Deadliest Days of Driving” for Teens Begins, http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/-100-deadliest-days-of-driving-for-teens-begins-958256707680.
- CNN, Parents, Beware: These are the 100 Deadliest Days for Teens, http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/01/health/100-deadliest-days-teen-drivers/index.html.
- USA Today, AAA: 100 “Deadliest Days” of Summer: Teens on the Road after Memorial Day, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/06/01/summer-deadly-for-car-crashes/85237308/.