With the 2021 school year just about in the rear-view and freedom at their fingertips, what experts call the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers is now in session.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, an average of seven people are killed per day in teen driver-related crashes, according to AAA. Nationwide; more than 30% of deaths involving teen drivers take place over the 100-day span.
With COVID-19 vaccines approved for teens and pandemic restrictions disappearing, teens are going to want to reunite, and rightfully so.
“Now that the CDC has lifted many pandemic restrictions, young adults are eager to reconnect with friends, which means young inexperienced drivers will spend more time on the roads,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA in a release. “This increases the chances that they’re involved in a crash, and for every mile driven, new teen drivers (ages 16-17 years old) are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults.”
According to AAA, traffic crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. teens ages 16-19. Experts said six teens are killed each day “in crashes that are entirely preventable.”
In Florida, an average of 36 teen drivers are involved in fatal crashes in the 100-day span. AAA said on average, 158 people are killed in teen driver-related crashes each year; 40 of those occurring during the “100 Deadliest Days.” Over the last 10 summers, 400 individuals lost their life in teen driver-related crashes.
“Teens lack the experience, skills and maturity of a seasoned driver, which contribute to an increase in the chance that there will be a deadly outcome, not just for the teen driver, but also for any passenger as well as others on the road,” Jenkins continued. “So we all have a vested interest in ensuring that teens are safe behind the wheel.”
At Cape Coral High School, members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) program do their best to relay the dangers or driving impaired to their fellow classmates, especially around prom and graduation season.
“Unfortunately, students don’t have that fear, they think they’re invincible,” said Cape Coral High School SADD sponsor, Dianna Quay. “I’m hoping that our kids (with graduation Saturday) will make wise decisions.”
Quay said Cape seniors were talked to about making the right choices prior to this Saturday’s graduation night, and hope the message stuck.
“If we help one kid think before they get into a car to drive, or even get into a car with someone who is under the influence, it’s worth it,” she said.
There’s also a concern with the summer months coming up and teens wanting to get out and about more often.
“I think everybody’s been so pent up, that it’s going to be a release and I’m not sure everybody’s going to make the smartest decisions,” Quay said. “Uber is available, there’s no excuse not to have an alternative other than getting in that car or behind the wheel when there’s been alcohol or drugs involved.”
AAA officials said understanding the risks and knowing the facts help prepare both parents and teens for what can take place on the roadway.
Teen driver safety tips from AAA include:
• Driving with passengers: Teen drivers’ crash risks multiply when they have teen passengers. Set limits and enforce them.
• Driving at night: Night driving is more dangerous due to limited visibility, fatigue, and impaired drivers on the road. This is especially a risky time for teens. Limit the time your novice driver spends behind the wheel at night.
• Not wearing a safety belt: Wearing a safety belt greatly reduces the risk of being hurt or killed in a crash. Make a rule: everyone buckles up for every trip.
• Speeding: Speed is a leading factor in crashes for teens and adults. Teens need to follow posted speed limit and parents should set a good example and strong rules.
• Distracted driving: Teen passengers are the biggest distraction to teen drivers, but cell phones come in second. Many teens admit to interacting with their phone and in-car infotainment systems while behind the wheel despite clear dangers. Make a family rule covering these and other distractions that everyone abides by.
• Drowsy driving: Teens have a hard time getting enough sleep and often struggle with drowsiness. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, and teens have the highest risk. Ensure everyone who is behind the wheel has gotten enough sleep.
• Impaired driving: Driving impaired from alcohol and other drugs puts everyone at risk. Enforce strict zero tolerance rules with your teen and be a good role model.
Parents speaking with their ready-to-hit-the-road teens about the “dos and don’ts” can play an important role in how their child behaves behind the wheel. AAA experts said teaching by example and minimizing “risky behavior” when driving can lay the foundation of a safe driver.
AAA also recommends enrolling teens in driving courses. AAA’s “How to Drive Online” is a 25-hour supplemental course that delivers the rules and essential elements of safe driving in an interactive and innovative way. This online program aims to ensure that safe driving habits are developed and maintained for life. For more information on driver safety, classes, and more, visit “http://autoclubsouth.aaa.com”>autoclubsouth.aaa.com and search under the “safety” toolbar.
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