The lock down from COVID-19 is gradually ending, online school is over, and summer is here. Many parents are seeing their teens doing more driving. Unfortunately, most parents are not aware that Memorial Day kicks off what is called “The 100 Deadliest Days for Teens,” when it comes to teen vehicle crashes.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day is a time when there is an increase in fatal crashes involving teens. Data analysis from AAA showed that new teen drivers are three-times more likely than adults to be involved in fatal crashes.

Teen drivers are also more likely to take risks. According to the new AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, about 72 percent of teen drivers age 16 to 18 admitted to having engaged in at least one of the following risky behaviors in the past 30 days:

  • Driving 10 MPH over the speed limit on a residential street (47 percent)
  • Driving 15 MPH over the speed limit on a freeway (40 percent)
  • Texting (35 percent)
  • Red-light running (32 percent)
  • Aggressive driving (31 percent)
  • Drowsy driving (25 percent)
  • Driving without a seatbelt (17 percent)

Over the summer, the mixture of inexperienced drivers and more opportunities to be driving is a deadly combination. Parents have more influence over their teens than they may think. In fact, leading experts believe parents play a key role in preventing teen car crashes and deaths.

Teens with parents who set rules, monitor their driving, and are supportive are half as likely to crash and twice as likely to use seat belts than teens with less involved parents. Parents should set good examples and get involved with their teens and stay involved to make sure they follow good driving habits.

Distractions, including other teens in the vehicle, speeding, nighttime driving, and lack of seat belt use are all factors that play a role in fatal teen crashes. Most of these are regulated by the Graduated Driver License Law (GDL), which parents should become familiar with in order to protect teen drivers in the beginning stages of their driving.

The GDL law is designed to prevent cell phone use, limit the number of teen passengers that can legally ride with a novice driver, and also limit nighttime driving.

The law provides parents with the controls to help keep their teen drivers safe.

Many parents, however, are not aware of the provisions of this law — which is in force while the teen has a learner’s permit, as well as a provisional license. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that distracted driving was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. This is much higher than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) previous estimate for which distraction is involved in 14 percent of teen crashes. While cell phone use is an obvious danger for teen drivers, the study surprisingly showed that the leading distraction for the teens was not cell phone use, but interacting with other passengers in the vehicle. Cell phone use came in as the second most common distraction. Research shows that the risk for fatal crashes goes up in direct relation to the number of teens in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.

Parents please to talk to your teens about safe driving and to follow these guidelines from the NHTSA.

The NHTSA reminds parents to:

  • Learn about the GDL law and the restrictions placed on their teen’s license
  • Require seatbelt use
  • Talk to their teen about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Remind them that it is illegal to drink under the age of 21 — his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) should always be at .00
  • Be a good role model. Remember: Teenage children look to their parents as a role model driver, so practice safe driving at all times. Parents should set aside time to take their teen on practice driving sessions.age drivers’ learning starts at home.
  • Do not rely solely on a driver’s education class to teach your teen to drive.
  • Remember: Driver’s education should be used as just part of a GDL system.
  • Bottom line as a parent: It is imperative to know the dangers that teen driving poses.

Parents have more influence on their teen than they may think. Be a good example and get involved in their driving habits in the beginning, and stay involved throughout their teen years.

- For more information contact the Harrison County Extension Office at (903) 935-8414.