The “100 Deadly Days” each summer, the stretch from Memorial Day to Labor Day, apply specifically to teens on the road. Some of them are experiencing their first summer of driving solo. Their long days with time to ride around with friends can turn into tragedy if they are not properly prepared for the serious business of driving when they have relatively little experience.
Teen Driving Statistics
From 2012 through 2016, crashes that involved teen drivers during the 100 Deadly Days killed more than 5,000 people in the United States. Some of the 5,000 who died were the teens themselves. Over the summer months, drivers who are 16 through 19 years old are in an increased number of crashes because more of them are on the road this time of year. On top of that, it’s tempting for teens to drive distracted when they have friends inside the car and nice weather outside the car. Average teen fatalities increase 26 percent during this 100-day period.
More facts about teen drivers:
- The highest crash rate of any age group belongs to teens.
- The leading cause of death among teens is vehicular crashes.
- Distracted driving is responsible for 60 percent of all teen collisions.
- The top distraction for teen drivers is others riding in the car, causing 15 percent of all teen crashes.
- The second most likely distraction for teen drivers is any use of a cell phone, accounting for 12 percent of crashes. Looking at or dealing with something inside the car that’s not a phone causes 11 percent of teen collisions.
- Of the 10 deadliest days for teen drivers, 9 of them fall within the 100-day summer period.
Now that we know the sobering facts, what can we do to help our teens stay safe?
Parents Can Make a Difference
When you talk with your teen driver, give them every safety tip you can think of. Remind them that using their phone behind the wheel is dangerous, that friends in the car can distract them, and that driving after drinking or drugging is not only a terrible risk to take—it is also a crime. A DUI conviction can ruin their future plans for college and a career.
Encourage your teen to stand up to the friend who always drives with one finger on their phone, or who is impaired by alcohol or drugs, so they have the courage to refuse to get in the car with them. And, should your teen find themself in a situation where they, or their ride, is impaired, tell them to call you. Promise to pick them up with no questions and no lectures. Remember—the point is you want them to make it home alive and unhurt, and without hurting others.
Be a good role model. Don’t use your cell phone while you are driving, especially when your teen is riding with you.
Spend as much time as you can with your teen in the driver’s seat so you can assess their skills. In other words, practice makes them perfect—or at least better. Teens are taught very little about the real-world situations that happen while driving, such as swerving drivers, sudden traffic changes, or how to safely avoid an object. Keep in mind that teen brains are still immature, so sudden decisions such as merging into heavy traffic can be difficult for them. They need repetition in order to know what to do in certain situations.
Finally, some words of wisdom from a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Richard Lichenstein has pointed out, “Parents play the most important role of all. They are the teacher, they are the role model, and they have the keys to actually allow their teens to drive or decide that their teens really aren’t ready. And these decisions can be lifesaving.”
This summer, help your teen so they don’t become a statistic.