My readers are most likely familiar with the “100 deadly days” – the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen deaths from car crashes have historically spiked. Sadly most of those deaths could have been prevented.
Over the past five years, an average of 10 people have died per day in crashes involving teen drivers during the summer, according to AAA. That’s an average of 5,000 people since 2010 and an increase of 16% per day compared with other days of the year. The key reason for the spike is that teens are out of school and not only on the roads more frequently, but for recreational purposes – going to parties, the beach, etc. rather than to school and possibly a job. Thus, they may travel unfamiliar routes and stay out later at night due to relaxed curfews.
Driving inexperience, coupled with distractions, can greatly increase the risk of a serious or deadly accident. A new study by the association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that nearly 60% of teen crashes involved distracted drivers. The most common distractions were interacting with passengers, using a cell phone to talk or text and looking at something in or around the vehicle such as the radio or a billboard. Teens are more connected to their cellphones than ever, texting and using social media behind the wheel. But, it might surprise you that loud conversations and horseplay between passengers were bigger distractions than technology. In fact, passengers increase the risk of a teen driver having a fatal crash by at least 44 percent, according to the National Safety Council. This is a main reason many states issued graduated, first-time licenses that restrict the number of youth passengers with a teen driver.
When it comes to safety, parents should not take the summer off. Talk to your teens about wearing seat belts, following the speed limit and other road signs, and avoiding distractions – texting and talking on a cell phone, passengers, and loud music while behind the wheel. Remind your teen that drinking and driving is not only deadly, but underage drinking is illegal. Also, set a curfew. A teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles at night.
By setting expectations and rules as the summer gets fully underway, parents can make a big difference in how safe their teens are during this risky time of year. Make sure your teen is also aware that safe driving means being mindful of other drivers as well. That means be prepared for unexpected behavior, such as sudden stops, turns, and running traffic lights. Do you have tips to keeping teens drivers safe this summer? Share your comments.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.