The end of Memorial Day weekend means that summer is right around the corner. Unfortunately, it is also the dreadful beginning of the 100 Deadliest Days. According to the AAA, fatal accidents involving teen drivers increase by 14 percent in the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In 2016, 1,050 people were killed in vehicle crashes during this time- an average of 10 people per day.
With the last days of school upon us, teen drivers will soon be out on the roads in swarms. Maryland parents can help protect their teens this summer by getting involved and spreading awareness. Reviewing statistics and educating your teens on safe driving habits before the summer is in full swing are invaluable steps to reducing the number of teen road fatalities this season.
Teen Driving Risks
Teens are already at a higher risk for vehicle accidents outside of the 100 Deadliest Days. Inexperience, speeding, and distractions are three of the most common variables putting teens in danger on the road every day. When combined with one or all of these summer-related driving hazards, fatal accidents rates skyrocket:
- Alcohol and Drugs: According to Bradford Health Services, by the end of the summer, around 940,400 teens will have had their first drink, 155,000 will have tried marijuana, 28,800 will have tried cocaine, and 125,798 will have tried prescription drugs. When teens use any type of substance, their judgment is poor. Teen drivers may unknowingly put themselves at risk if they don't understand how these substances affect their body behind the wheel.
- Friends: Teens are far more likely to overload their cars with passengers than adults. Passengers increase the number of distractions for a driver leading to accidents. Too many passengers may lead teens to sit on someone's lap or on the floor of a vehicle- both which are both extremely dangerous.
- Seatbelts: Teens are less likely than any other age group to wear their seat belts when in the car, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Not wearing a seatbelt puts people at risk for ejections and catastrophic injuries in a car crash.
- Cellphones: Younger generations are more likely to use their cell phones while driving. More teen drivers on the road during the summer means higher a higher concentration of drivers distracted by phones on the road.
- Summer Parties: Summer parties are everywhere in the summer. These parties often include endless amounts of alcohol and drugs, leading to large groups of impaired teens getting behind the wheel.
- Weekends and Night Driving: According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, most fatal teen driving accidents occur on the weekend between 9 p.m. and midnight. Heavy weekend traffic and low visibility at night can make it difficult for veteran drivers to stay alert, let alone teen drivers who lack the experience.
Talking to your teen about the risks of reckless driving in the summer is the first step to preventing accidents. By sharing statistics and these safe driving tips, you can be the first line of defense in protecting your teen on the road:
- Drive Sober: No amount of safety measures will keep your teen safe in the car if they are driving under the influence. Educate your teen about the dangers of drinking or using drugs before driving. Talk about how these substances affect their body and judgment. Discourage underage substance use, but create a safety plan 'just in case' to ensure they have a safe ride.
- Reduce Distractions: Whether it's friends, music, or cellphones, distractions can be deadly. Review the most common distractions with your teen and how they can avoid them to stay alert. Parents can also download apps to reduce their teens ability to use cellphones while driving to prevent temptation.
- Buckle Up: Make sure your teen knows how to safely use the seatbelt in the vehicle they will be driving. Review the dangers of not buckling up in the car as a driver and a passenger.
- Make Adjustments: Don't assume your teen knows how to adjust the mirrors for optimal protection. Take the time to help them until you know they get it.
- Set Car Rules: Set ground rules for your teen when driving your vehicle right off the bat. Establish how many passengers they can have and times of the day they are allowed to drive. In some cases, parents may want to install optimal cabin cameras to let your teen know you will be watching!
- Be The Driver: Avoid worrying about your teen making smart decisions after summer events and parties where alcohol might be present. Offer to drive and pick up.
Driving Is Not A Right
Driving is a privilege–not a right. If your teen is refusing to practice safe driving habits or needs more practice behind the wheel, take them off the road. Allowing your teen to drive recklessly puts their life and others at risk. Consider enrolling your teen in safe driving courses to increase their skill set on the road. Maryland's Department of Transportation has several safety programs and classes to get you started. Don't take a chance- drive safe this summer!
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