It’s summertime and school is out -- which means we’re officially into the 100 Deadly Days of Summer when it comes to teen drivers. AAA researchers say nationwide, more than 7,000 people died in teen driving-related summertime crashes from 2010 to 2019. That’s more than seven people/day during these 100 Deadliest Days – the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day – compared to the rest of the year (six people/day).
According to previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, new teen drivers ages 16-17 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash.
“There are more daily deaths in crashes involving teen drivers during the summer months than the rest of the year because teens tend to have more unstructured time behind the wheel,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “So what can be done? We can encourage teens to double down on staying focused when driving, buckling up for every ride, and driving within posted speed limits.”
AAA points to three areas of special focus when it comes to teens and unsafe driving behavior.
- Distraction:According to AAA, distraction plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports. The top distractions for teens include talking to other passengers in the vehicle and interacting with a smartphone.
- Not Buckling Up:In research published in 2015, 60 percent of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt. Teens who buckle up significantly reduce their risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 22,215 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019, 47% were not wearing seat belts. Read the Kailee Mills story here.
- Speeding:Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. A previous AAA survey of driving instructors found that speeding is one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive. Also, another recent study conducted by the Ford Motor Company Fund and the Governor’s Highway Safety Association found speeding plays a significant role in teen speeding-related deaths.
Parents, too, have a big role to play in keeping teens safe on the road. A parent-teen driving contract is a great idea. You can check out a Teen Driver contract that CarProUSA Show host Jerry Reynolds recommends to his listeners here. AAA also stresses the importance of parents modeling safe driving behaviors and encouraging their teens to practice them, too. Parents can also monitor their teen’s driving habits with programs like GM’s Teen Driver technology that gives parents a report card on their teen’s driving behavior.
Now that things are getting back to normal and pandemic restrictions are easing, AAA also says it’s a good idea for teens to complete a comprehensive driver education course. There are also additional programs like Ford Driving Skills. While in-person classes are not being held currently, teens can still receive online training with interactive safe driving videos and simulations.
If you’d like info on how to teach your teen how to drive, check out AAA’s free guide “Coaching Your New Driver – An In-Car Guide for Parents” for behind-the-wheel lesson plans, plus some “DOs and DON’Ts” to make the learning experience as helpful as possible. You can also find other educational tools on TeenDriving.AAA.com. An AAA StartSmart Parent Session also gives parents resources on how to become effective in-car coaches, plus advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges.