As Memorial Day weekend becomes a memory, a new, deadly summer season begins.
This week begins what the American Automobile Association deems the "100 Deadliest Days," or the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day when fatal crashes involving teen drivers spikes. The organization reports that between 2008 and 2018, more than 8,300 people were fatally injured in crashes involving teen drivers during this three-month period.
Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for the American Automobile Association (AAA) East Central explains, “The crash data from the last decade are alarming, and with the combination of COVID-related factors at play this year, it’s essential for parents to talk with their teens now. Setting ground rules and modeling safe driving behaviors will go a long way towards saving lives.”
COVID-19-related restrictions could work against legislative and organizational efforts to lower the fatality rate among teen drivers. The bleak unemployment rate, canceled summer activities, and the re-opening of non-essential businesses mean these new motorists will have more time to get behind the wheel.
AAA analysis discovered that for every mile driven, drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash when compared to adults with experience. Both the lack of experience and willingness to take greater risks on the road contribute to this statistic, the organization says.
The AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, a recently-released tool, found that 72% of teen drivers between 16 and 18 years old confessed to numerous risky behaviors when questioned.
Nearly half, or 47% of those surveyed admitted to driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street. Forty percent of teen drivers also said they have driven more than 15 mph over the speed limit on America's highways.
Other behaviors teen motorists acknowledged were texting (35%), running a red light (32%) aggressive driving (31%), fatigued driving (25%) and driving without a seatbelt (17%).
The AAA states that parents remain the "best line of defense" when it comes to teen driver safety.
Jennifer Ryan, AAA’s director of state relations, says, “It’s never too soon to educate teens on the dangers of distracted driving, speeding, and the impairing effects of alcohol and marijuana. But actions speak louder than words. Remember to model good behavior because your teen won’t take your advice seriously if you don’t follow it yourself.”
The organization recommends discussing often the consequences of dangerous behaviors behind the wheel such as speeding, impairment and distracted driving. In addition, the AAA suggests parents get behind the wheels with their teen for 50 hours of supervised practice as well as setting "family rules" for driving. Lastly, parents should lead by example and remain cognizant of their own behaviors when driving.
Information and resources to assist parents are available on the AAA website.