Summer vacation is here. While this should be a time for celebration and relaxation, there is an unfortunate truth we need to address. Teen drivers are much more likely to be in a fatal car crash around this time of year. But to understand why summer is the worst time for teen drivers, we need to look at the causes and what parents can do to help their teens get home safe.
The 100 Deadliest Days of Summer
Summertime teen car crashes are so notorious and well documented that they have been called “The 100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” AAA coined this term in response to data showing that teens are much more likely to be in a fatal car crash between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
To put that into perspective, car crashes are already the leading cause of death for teens ages 16-19. It’s estimated that the average driver under age 20 is about 3x more likely to be in a crash than drivers above that age. However, during the 100 deadliest days of summer, teen drivers are about 25% more likely to lose their lives in a fatal crash than at any other time of year.
Newly licensed drivers (including those who earn their license during summer vacation) are at the greatest risk of all. Teenage drivers are about 1.5x more likely to be in a crash within the first three months (90 days) of earning their license.
This isn’t to say that teen drivers are necessarily careless or reckless. Rather, these crashes can result from unfamiliarity with the rules of the road, general nervousness, or peer pressure.
That said, one of the major driving causes behind these crashes is that summer vacation gives teens the freedom to be on the road more often. Inexperience and a higher tendency to make simple mistakes (not looking over should before changing lanes) already puts teens at greater risk of causing a crash. That, combined with far more miles driven per day, has proven to be a recipe for disaster.
Because there is so much at stake, we must discuss the top causes of these crashes and what parents of teen drivers can do to keep their children safe.
You may not be surprised to learn that teen drivers are much more likely to engage in driving distractions (including cellphone use) than the general driving population. Nearly half of all teen drivers self-report texting and driving. Moreover, those who text and drive are less likely to practice good defensive driving habits and are more likely to be aggressive drivers who speed, fail to use turn signals, and run through red lights.
To fully understand the scope of this issue, consider the following: Among adults, cellphone use is a factor in about 1-in-50 adult car crashes. Among teens, cellphone use is a factor in 1-in-5 car crashes.
While some parents may encourage hands-free alternatives like voice dictation, there is no evidence that voice dictation is any safer than manually texting. The only time a cellphone is safe in the car is when it is on airplane mode and out of arm’s reach.
In many states, newly licensed drivers aren’t allowed to have young passengers in their vehicles. While this may seem strange, the data shows why.
Teen drivers are significantly more likely to be in a car crash when there are other teenagers in the car with them. Worst of all, this effect is multiplicative and ramps up dramatically for each additional teen inside the vehicle. A newly licensed teen driving the family van full of their friends is one of the riskiest things they can possibly do on the road.
While you can’t watch over your teen at all times, parents should have an idea of their teen’s plans for the day and recognize situations where they might drive friends around or get in a vehicle with several other teens. Not only is this unlawful in many parts of the country, it is demonstrably dangerous.
Extreme speeding is a factor in 30%of teen car crashes. This is one place where newly licensed drivers and older teens tend to differ. On average, drivers 18-19 are much more likely to be in a speeding-related fatality than drivers ages 16-17. Male drivers are at especially high risk being about twice as likely to get a speeding ticket or be involved in a speeding-related crash.
While most drivers speed to some extent, it is important for parents to emphasize that speeding is intrinsically dangerous. It requires extremely fast reaction times, and any mistake will cause significantly more damage at higher speeds.
One of the more effective ways to prevent your teen from speeding is to build good habits at an early age. Teens follow their parent’s driving habits and are much more likely to become safe drivers if their parents practice defensive driving habits.
The final major risk for teen drivers is DUIs. Although providing alcohol to minors is unlawful, drunk driving is a factor in 1-in-4 teen car crashes. If you’re keeping track, that means more teen crashes caused by alcohol than texting and driving.
There are two major problems contributing to this. First, even a few sips of alcohol make teens extremely unsafe to drive. Some studies suggest that teens with low blood alcohol content (BAC) are much more likely to be in a crash than similarly intoxicated adults.
The second issue is that teenagers, in general, are willing to accept a ride from peers who have a car, even if they are clearly intoxicated and unsafe to drive. There are many reasons for this, but it often comes down to trust. Teens don’t feel like they can turn to their parents for help when they are unsafe to drive or at risk of taking a ride from an intoxicated friend.
Parents need to be open and understanding. If your child gets behind the wheel while intoxicated because they are afraid of what will happen if they ask for your help, they could lose their life in a car crash. Being honest about these concerns and offering to drive them to and from parties can make an enormous difference in building good driving habits and building trust in you.
To schedule an appointment at Dunk Law Firm, please don’t hesitate to call (800) 674-9339 or send us an email.