Reducing teenage driving fatalities this summer
Summertime often includes family vacations, BBQs, and other activities where children and parents enjoy more time together. But as schools across the country adjourn until fall, there is an increased likelihood for parents to encounter one of their worst nightmares. Few events are more tragic than when a parent is faced with the sudden loss of a teen’s life in a preventable auto accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 422 teens die monthly in traffic crashes during summer in the United States, compared to an average of 363 teen deaths during the non-summer months. Ever scarier, the American Automobile Association determined that seven of the 10 deadliest days of the year for teens fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day: May 20, May 23, June 10, July 4, July 9, August 8, and August 14. Out of the entire year, July and August are the deadliest months for 16- and 17-year-old drivers. And in total, between 5,000 and 6,000 teen drivers die each year.
A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a 16- or 17-year-old driver’s risk of death per mile driven increases 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21 (and no older passengers). If there are two passengers younger than 21, the risk is doubled. The risk quadruples when carrying three or more passengers of that age. Comparatively, the risk of a teen driver dying in an accident when a passenger age 35 or older is in the vehicle decreases by 62 percent.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control released last week its 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study results, which found that 58 percent of high school seniors admit to texting while driving. Nationwide, 32.8 percent of all students had texted or e-mailed while driving a car. Teens also regularly hop in a car with a driver who has been drinking alcohol. About a quarter of students nationwide admit to this behavior, with the prevalence higher among 12th-grade students (27.7 percent) than freshmen (21.8 percent).
In order to protect teens during these high-risk months and year-round, AAA suggests the following tips for parents:
- Eliminate trips without purpose.
- Restrict night driving. A teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles at night.
- Limit passengers.
- Establish a parent-teen driving agreement. Written agreements help set and enforce clear rules about night driving, passengers, access to the car, and more.
- Enroll teens in summer driving school.
- Use driver training tools. Enhance your teen’s driving, critical thinking and decision-making skills with driver training resources.
- Be there. Make sure your teen knows that if they need help, advice or a ride, they can call you at any time. Extend this offer often and let your teen know that you are always available, and that they will not be judged or punished should they need your help.
This summer and throughout the year, it is important for parents and loved ones to safeguard teens from such preventable deaths. By following these important tips, families are more likely to enjoy a fulfilling summer that can be fondly remembered for years to come.