Editorial: Deadliest days

While Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start to summer, it has a darker side as the start of the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, new teen drivers are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly car crash from now through Labor Day.
It’s really not surprising since this is the time teens are out of school and driving more. What may be surprising is that more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2016 during this time period. That is an average of 10 people per day — a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year,
According to the National Safety Council, teen drivers crash most often because they are inexperienced. It is difficult for them to judge gaps in traffic, find the right speed for conditions and make turns safely, among other challenges.
Nighttime driving can be especially challenging. According to the AAA foundation, in 2016:

  • 36 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities involving teen drivers occurred between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

  • "One in 10 of all motor vehicle nighttime crash fatalities involved a teen driver.

  • Data show a 22-percent increase in the average number of nighttime crashes per day involving teen drivers during the 100 deadliest days compared to the rest of the year.

However, there are other reasons why the average number of deadly teen-driver crashes increase 15 percent during this period compared to the rest of the year.
It’s hard to believe, but 60 percent of teen drivers killed in 2015 were not wearing a seat belt.
Speeding is a factor in nearly 30% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers
Most importantly, teens become distracted, and this was a factor in nearly 60 percent of teen crashes, including 89 percent of crashes where the car went off the road and 76 percent of rear-end crashes.While interacting with passengers accounted for 15 percent of crashes and using a cell phone accounted for 10 percent, there were other forms of distraction that got teens in trouble, including:

  • Looking at something in the vehicle — 10 percent.

  • Looking at something outside the vehicle — 9 percent.

  • Singing/dancing to music — 8 percent.

  • Grooming — 6 percent.

  • Reaching for an object — 6 percent.

Both AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration remind parents it is up to them to instill safe driving habits in their children. While safety may be drilled into teens while they learn to drive, it is even more important for them to be reminded after they earn their license. Parents should also model good behavior:

  • No cell phones while driving.

  • No extra passengers.

  • No speeding.

  • No alcohol.

  • No driving or riding without a seat belt.

  • Obeying traffic signals such as traffic lights and stop signs.

AAA has a website — TeenDriving.AAA.com — which offers various tools to prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches and advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges.
Everyone wants to enjoy the summer. No one wants to be involved in an accident — especially an accident that can irreparably change — or end — someone’s life. When getting behind the wheel, take the time to remember the responsibility that comes with the privilege of driving.