Summer is known as a joyous time, filled with less work and school and more relaxation and vacation. But behind the leisurely veneer lurks a serious threat on the roadways: There is a sharp increase in automobile fatalities involving teen drivers from Memorial Day to Labor Day, also referred to as the 100 Deadliest Days.
It’s easy to chalk up the increase to the fact that more teens are driving for longer periods in the summer since schools are out and they have more free time. But it’s really the driving behavior that greatly increases the risk of a crash. “We know that when teens are joyriding as opposed to driving with a specific destination and time in mind, there is a heightened risk,” said Diana Gugliotta, Senior Manager of Public Affairs for AAA Northeast.
Another major risk factor is the number and ages of the other passengers in the teen-driven car. “Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all people increased 51%,” Gugliotta said. “In contrast, when older passengers (35 or older) ride with a teen driver, overall fatality rates in crashes decreased 8%.”
Teen Driving Statistics
Nationwide, 7,316 people died in teen driver-related summertime crashes from 2011 to 2020, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. That is nearly half of the total number of those killed in teen-driver crashes for the rest of the year. In 2021 alone, 900 people were killed in these types of crashes, a 6% increase from the previous year and a 25% increase over pre-pandemic 2019.
Parents should set very specific household rules with their teen drivers. AAA offers a parent/teen driving contract to help guide the process. The website also contains state-specific information on graduated driver licensing laws and passenger restrictions.
Many states have passenger restrictions for teen drivers, and parents should educate themselves on these laws and stress compliance with their teens. Gugliotta recommends going even further.
“Parents should consider setting driving limits that are stronger than a state’s law, and enforce those limits, especially for the summer driving season.”
AAA reminds parents and teens to:
- Always buckle up.
- Never drive impaired.
- Put your phone away and focus on the task of driving.
- Follow posted speed limits.
Find more safe summer driving tips for your teenage motorist at AAA.com/DestinationSafety.