The Deadliest Period For Teen Drivers
June 8, 2016
The recent Memorial Day weekend began the deadliest period of the year for teen drivers. Known as the “deadliest 100 days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has, for many years, seen a significant rise in the deaths of teen drivers and their passengers.
The fatality increase during the summer months is due to several factors:
- Teens are out of school with extra time on their hands.
- Teens are bored and looking for excitement.
- Teens often fail to pace themselves – spending all day doing physically taxing activities at the beach and then going out late into the night.
- Alcohol or other drugs are often a part of the summer activities.
One might think that inexperience behind-the-wheel would also play a major role in the summer death rate and it does to an extent however, teens with the least experience have a much lower death rate than teens that have been driving a few years. Among Florida teen drivers aged 15 through 20 killed in 2014, drivers aged 15 through 17 made up only 12 percent of the teen deaths. Teen drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 accounted for 88 percent of the teen deaths during the deadliest period.
The death rate among older teens may be due to the fact that the older teens, after getting over the initial fear of solo driving become less cautious and more complacent. Another reason is that restrictions imposed on younger drivers by Graduated Driving Laws (GDL) are generally lifted by age 18 and teens who exercised caution during their probationary driving periods have now thrown caution to the wind.
Another issue that adds to the deadliest period is that of driver distractions. When discussing driver distractions, most automatically think of cell phones and texting. Those are serious and dangerous distractions but, surprisingly, they aren’t the distractions that contribute to most teen crashes. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently published the results of a study that used video cameras to follow 1,691 teen drivers for five years. During that period, the study subjects experienced a total of 538 crashes. While distractions by cell phones led to 12 percent of the crashes, distractions by talking to and interacting with teen passengers led to 15 percent of the crashes.
Teen passengers are a major distraction for teen drivers and that’s why many states restrict the number of passengers a teen driver can carry under their GDL laws. The lifting of both cell phone and passenger restrictions at age 18 is probably a major factor for the deaths among older teens during the deadliest period.
No matter what state law may say, parents can still impose their own driving restrictions on teens. Parents can limit the number of passengers to reduce distractions and they can ban the use of cell phones while driving. Parents who set the example by limiting their own use of cell phones and other distracting behaviors while driving stand the best chance of getting their teens to obey the rules.