Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and so begins the 100 Deadliest Days for American teens. According to AAA, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has consistently seen a 14 percent increase in fatal car accidents involving teen drivers since 2008. In the last decade alone, over 8,300 teens nationwide were killed in summertime car accidents; sadly, most of these fatalities were preventable.
As Connecticut residents continue to become more comfortable leaving their homes, roads across the state will become busier than ever. Teen drivers will be out in swarms with little to no experience behind the wheel. Connecticut parents can help protect their teens on the road by getting involved and spreading awareness. In this article, we’ll review the leading risks of summer driving accidents and the preventative steps parents can take to reduce these tragedies in the future.
Risks Affecting Teen Drivers
Teens are already at a higher risk for motor vehicle accidents than any other driving group. The most common distractions for teens identified by AAA are speeding, inexperience, and distractions behind the wheel; when these risks are combined with summer-related driving hazards, fatal vehicle accidents can skyrocket.
Summer-related driving hazards may include:
- More Passengers: Most teens love riding around in the car with their friends during the summer months. Passengers become increasingly distracting when there is too much noise or activity. Teens who pay more attention to their passengers than the road risk missing hazards such as stoplights, stop signs, or pedestrians crossing the street.
- Seatbelts: The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that teens buckle up less frequently than adults in the car. Over half of teens killed in vehicle accidents were not wearing a seatbelt or were wearing a seatbelt incorrectly at the time of impact.
- Alcohol & Drugs: Teens are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol during the summer months than any other time of the year. According to a study by Bradford Health Services, over 940,000 teens have their first drink by the end of summer, and 24 percent of underage drinkers are more likely to try illicit drugs after trying alcohol. Summer parties provide ample opportunities for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol; because they are also unfamiliar with how substances impact their bodies, teens are more likely to try driving under the influence.
- Night and Weekend Driving: The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reports that more fatal accidents involving teens occur on weekends and nights between the hours of 9 a.m. and midnight. Weekend traffic can leave inexperienced teen drivers with little room to make errors on the road. At the same time, nighttime hours reduce visibility and lead to more fatal accidents, particularly when drivers are reckless, distracted, speeding, or impaired.
- Cellphones: Cellphones are deadly distractions that lead to fatal car accidents all year round; cell phone use to coordinate daily activities outside of school hours, however, rises significantly in the summer. There are endless opportunities for teens to become distracted by cellphones behind the wheel, including texting, talking, and streaming on social media.
How to Protect Your Teen Driver
No matter how much practice or experience your teen driver has, they can still become a victim of the 100 Deadliest Days. Connecticut parents need to get involved now, before summer is in full swing, to help decrease fatal vehicle accidents in their community.
Some of the most effective ways you can increase your teen’s safety on the road include:
- Alcohol Education: Encouraging your teen to stay sober and drive sober may have a greater impact than you think. Creating a sobriety pact or emergency plan with your teen before they leave home can set clear expectations and help your teens make safer decisions on the road.
- Reduce Distractions: Review the common driving distractions with your teen to help them identify distractions when they arise. Setting ground rules for the car can also help your teen hold themselves and others accountable. These could include setting a safe volume on the radio, designating a place to lock up cellphones, or limiting the number of passengers allowed in the car when adults are not present.
- Limit Your Teens Driving: A study by Reuters found that teens who are given limited driving hours are less likely to cause or become involved in fatal vehicle accidents. Since nearly half of fatal accidents occur on Friday and Saturday nights, limiting your teen’s driving during these hours is a good place to start.
- Set Your Teen Up for Success: Do not assume your teen knows the proper way to use a seatbelt or how to set the controls and mirrors. Educate your teen on how to properly use the safety features in the vehicle they will be driving and help adjust the seat and steering wheel for their size.
- Be the Driver: If your teen does not show signs of safe driving behaviors or you are unsure if they are mature enough to make the right decisions while out with others, be the driver. Offer to drop off and pick up throughout the night to ensure your teen and their friends are transported safely.
Education is your biggest weapon when fighting against the 100 Deadliest Days. For more information on how to teach your teen driver about road safety, the Connecticut State DMV Center for Teen Safe Driving has a ton of resources to help parents and teens have a safe summer on the road.
Prevent Underage Drinking in CT
Underage drinking in the summer is dangerous, especially when it comes to driving. Help reduce the number of underage drinkers in your community by educating your teens on the dangers of alcohol and hosting alcohol-free parties. If you hear about underage drinking in the community, report it to the local authorities. Do not be afraid of becoming the uncool parent– your child’s life could depend on it.
For more ways to get involved, MADD Connecticut and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services provide programs and resources for parents looking to spread awareness and make a difference.
Connecticut Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys
Connecticut drivers have a responsibility to operate their vehicles safely and responsibly. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to negligence of another, you need an experienced law firm to protect your rights. At Jacobs & Wallace, PLLC, we have decades of experience fighting for the rights of Connecticut motor vehicle accident victims. Call us today for a FREE case evaluation: 203-896-4929.