Summer Brings 'Deadliest Days' for Teen Drivers

By Matt Schmitz  on May 30, 2014

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The so-called 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.

Teen Drivers: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Car crashes already are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, who have the highest crash rate of any age group, AAA stated. During the summer months — when drivers rack up 20 billion more miles than at other times of the year — an average of 260 teens are killed in accidents each month. That's a 26 percent spike compared with 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 passenger 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:

  • 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 trims.
  • 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.

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News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers.  Email Matt