Summer is known, above all else, as a joyous time, one filled less with work and school and more with relaxation and vacation. But behind the leisurely veneer lurks a serious threat on the roadways.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there is a sharp increase in automobile fatalities involving teen drivers. In 2016, more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver during this time period, known as the “100 Deadliest Days.” That’s an average of 10 people per day – a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
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 Imondi, traffic safety programs manager at 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 percent,” Imondi said. “In contrast, when older passengers (35 or older) ride with a teen driver, overall fatality rates in crashes decreased 8 percent.”
Speed and nighttime driving are also factors. In 2016, 29 percent of all motor vehicle deaths involving teen drivers were speed-related, and 36 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities involving teen drivers occurred between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.
Parents should set very specific household rules with their teen drivers. AAA offers a parent/teen driving contract, which you can find at TeenDriving.AAA.com, 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. Imondi 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.”
Finding more safe driving tips for your teenage motorist. TeenDriving.AAA.com