Memorial Day kicks off what's known as 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. Memorial Day through Labor Day is the deadliest time for teen drivers, and nearly 60% of teen crashes involved distracted drivers.
Here's a sobering statistic for the unofficial start of summer, when we gear up for picnics, barbecues and our kids having more free time on their hands:
From 2010 to 2014, more than 5,000 people died in crashes involving teen drivers in those 100 days. Over the past five years, the average number of crashes involving drivers ages 16-19 increased 16% per day during the "100 deadliest days," compared with other days of the year.
Some of the reasons for the spike make sense. Teens are driving more during the summer, and it might be more recreational than purposeful. For instance, instead of driving back and forth to school, they might be driving to the beach, lake or river, and heading down roads they haven't driven before.
But one of the biggest reasons for the summer risk increase is that teens might be driving more frequently with more of their friends.
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"We have always known that passengers were a big risk for teens, but what we're really finding out now is that passengers may be one of the most important risks for teens, even more so than things like texting.
Think about it this way: Passengers are a distraction the entire time a teen is driving, whereas the distraction from texting is probably limited to the seconds or minutes they're looking at screens instead of the road.
In fact, statistics show that passengers increase the risk of a teen driver having a fatal crash by at least 44%.
A majority of states have laws on the books regarding the number of passengers allowed for new drivers. Some states don't allow any for the first six months or year after getting a license; some allow one passenger.
Arizona restricts non-family member passengers to one in a teen driver’s vehicle for the first 6 months of licensure.
A 2014 study found that loud conversations and horseplay between passengers were more likely than technology to result in a dangerous incident involving teen drivers.
The study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center tracked 52 high-school age drivers in North Carolina who agreed to have cameras installed in their cars. When there was loud conversation in the car, teen drivers were six times more likely to need to take actions like making an evasive maneuver to avoid a crash. When there was horseplay in the vehicle, they were three times more likely to get into a similarly serious episode, according to the study.
The best advice for parents is to understand the risks about passengers and drive with them so they can get accustomed to having people in the car. Parents also need to consider the risks of driving at night.
It's not the time of night, but rather, how dark it is. That's really the risk here, and I think too many parents think of night driving as a social curfew.
The best thing parents can do is to teach teen drivers the best we can; lessons learned and the education is what they will fall back on when they get behind the wheel on their own and/or encounter any situation on the road.