ATLANTA, Ga. (AAA/NBC News) – Just a second of inattention can lead to tragedy.
That’s one of the messages the AAA is hoping will linger in the minds of parents and teens as we enter what they call the “100 Deadliest Days.”
It’s the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the number of deadly teen car accidents skyrockets.
“We often see a spike of about 15 percent of deadly teen crashes during the summer months,” warns AAA’s Jennifer Ryan.
That’s because more new and inexperienced teen drivers are out of school and hitting the already crowded roadways.
AAA says speed, seatbelts, and distractions are the three most common factors in deadly teen car accidents, and those distractions may not be strictly gadgets.
“When we looked at distractions, we found that the first cause of a distraction for a teen driver was a passenger, and the second was a cell phone,” Ryan says.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest study, 16 to 17-year olds are three times more likely than any other drivers to be involved in a fatal crash, and they say parents are on the front line when it comes to keeping teen drivers safe.
“I would encourage them to have conversations early and often and always set a good example when behind the wheel,” Ryan says.
Over the past five years, more than 1,600 people were killed in crashes involving inexperienced teen drivers during this deadly period. Georgia has seen 112 fatalities involving a teen driver so far this year according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“During the summer months we see more teens on our roadways, likely due to the excitement surrounding no school and more time to spend with friends,” said Garrett Townsend, GA Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The Foundation’s research found that inexperience paired with greater exposure on the road create a deadly combination for teen drivers.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest study, Rates of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries, and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age, analyzes crash rates per mile driven for all drivers and found that for every mile on the road, drivers ages 16-17 years old are:
- 3.9 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a crash
- 2.6 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a fatal crash
- 4.5 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a crash
- 3.2 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a fatal crash
Fatal teen crashes are on the rise. Nationwide, the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes increased more than 10 percent from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2015 crash data, the latest data available. To reverse this alarming trend, AAA urges parents to help reduce the number of deadly crashes on the road by getting more involved and talking to their teens about the dangers of risky behavior behind the wheel.
“Parents are the front line of defense in keeping our roads safer this summer,” said Matt Nasworthy, Traffic Safety Consultant for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “It all starts with educating teens about safety on the road and modeling good driving behaviors like staying off the phone and always buckling up.”
Three factors that commonly result in deadly crashes for teen drivers are:
- Distraction: Distraction plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports. The top distractions for teens include talking to other passengers in the vehicle and interacting with a smart phone.
- Not Buckling Up: In 2015, the latest data available, 60 percent of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt. Teens who buckle up significantly reduce their risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash.
- Speeding: Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. A recent AAA survey of driving instructors found that speeding is one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive.
To keep roads safer this summer, AAA encourages parents to:
- Have conversations with their teens early and often about distraction and speeding.
- Teach by example and minimize risky behavior when driving.
- Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.
TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills. AAA also offers membership discounts for new teen drivers to help keep them safe on the road in case of an emergency.