The 100 days of summer between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays are upon us, and while they may be the most fun, relaxing days of the year for teen drivers, they’re also fraught with grave danger. With school out, AAA warns that as the mercury rises, so do teen driving fatalities, making summertime the “100 Deadliest Days” of the year for your teenager. In fact, over 5,000 people have died in teenage driver crashes over the past five years, just during the summer timeframe.
Car crashes already are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, who have the highest crash rate of any age group. During the summer months — when drivers rack up 20 billion more miles than at other times of the year — an average of almost 300 teens are killed in accidents each month. That’s a 30 percent spike compared to the other months of the year. Not only are teens themselves more likely to die in car crashes, they also have the highest rates of crash involvement resulting in the deaths of others, including passengers, pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles, AAA stated.
Moreover, risk increases exponentially with the addition of each younger passenger in a car driven by a 16- or 17-year-old. Compared with a 62 percent risk reduction when one passenger age 35 or older is in a teen driver’s car, the risk of being killed increases 44 percent with just one passenger younger than 21; it doubles with two passengers under 21; and quadruples with three or more passengers under 21.
To help keep young drivers — as well as their passengers, other motorists and bystanders — safe this summer, the Insurance Information Institute advises the following precautions and I agree 100%:
- Choose a safe car for your teen that’s easy to drive and offers protection in a crash — avoid small cars, large SUVs and those with high-performance engines.
- Enroll teens in a driver-education course and safe-driver program, which will better prepare them for challenging situations on the road. These programs inform teens of the responsibilities and consequences of driving, and possibly earn them an insurance discount.
- Discuss the dangers of talking or texting on cellphones while driving, as well as drug and alcohol use, and develop a plan for getting home if they encounter an impaired-driving situation.
- Be a good role model. Remember: If you drive recklessly, your teen likely will imitate you.
On the subject of texting and driving, recent studies at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting creates a crash risk 23 times greater than those who are paying attention. The study showed also that two-thirds of the people killed in crashes were people other than the teen drivers. Can you imagine the guilt he or she would suffer knowing he or she killed someone because he or she was texting behind the wheel?
As a responsible parent, you have talked to your teen about the dangers of distracted driving, and they all deny doing it to keep from being punished. In a recent AAA Foundation survey of teen drivers, 50 percent admitted they had read a text or email while driving in the past 30 days. If everyone had been honest, the number was probably higher. The average teen today sends an average of 80 text messages every day. C’mon Mom and Dad, open your eyes, the odds are overwhelming your little angel is texting and driving.
Texting is major problem, but there are many other distractions also. Finding the “right song” on the radio, an iPod, or cell phone can cause kids to take their eyes off the road, and until he or she has a crash, teen drivers have no conception of how fast wrecks can happen. Have you talked to your kid about what to do if he or she drops something? A dropped phone, drink, or some other item can cause deadly consequences because an inexperienced driver’s first inclination is to reach down and retrieve it.
Some years ago, a Judge in the Austin, TX area wrote a teen driver contract that he made parents and teen drivers sign when they were in front of him for a traffic violation. Since then, hundreds of Car Pro Show listeners have used it and said they felt it made a big difference. I hope that is true, but I see too many parents who do not want their child to be mad at them. If you would like to use the teen driver contract, here is a link to download it and you can change the parameters and/or the punishment.
My suggestion is to take the contract seriously, go over it line by line, and the child and parents all sign it. The most important step, however, is enforcement of the terms of the contract, even if it hurts.
I get it, when the thought of losing a child enters the mind of a parent; he or she tends to push that thought away. It is unfathomable, it is unpleasant, it is unnatural, and it is something that happens to others. I thought that as well until I had to plan the funeral for my own son. Imagine yourself doing that, and then pay attention to your kid’s driving habits.