School vacation has started for many, and teens will be anxious to enjoy the freedoms that come with summer. They’ll be staying out later and venturing farther. Whether for graduation celebrations, trips to the beach or college visits, summer is the season for road trips, which means it’s a good time to remind them about driving safely.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety named the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the “100 Deadliest Days on the Road.” Based on their studies, fatal crashes by teen drivers increase during the summer with an average of 10 people dying per day during these deadliest days.
The top three causes of crashes are consistently from distracted driving, impairment and speed. According to TeenDriving.AAA.com, six out of 10 teen crashes involve distracted drivers. Cell phones aren’t the only distractions for teen drivers. Music, eating and drinking, looking at GPS directions or having passengers in the vehicle all take away a driver’s attention.
Now is a good time to talk about distracted driving with your teen and consider setting ground rules for summer driving. Signing a driving contract with your teen can be an effective way to communicate expectations. You can find a sample driving contract here: Parent-Teen Driving Agreement | CDC
Teens who drive with multiple passengers—especially if those passengers are teenagers—are at an increased risk for crashes. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that “teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer, compared to when driving alone.” Parents can help by limiting the amount of passengers your teen is allowed to have in the vehicle.
It’s also a good idea to restrict nighttime driving hours. According to Safekids.org, teen drivers are three times more likely than adults to crash at night.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs—whether legal or prescribed—continues to be a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents. Even if your teen is not the one at the wheel, danger exists anytime they get into the vehicle with someone who may be impaired. Talk to your teen about the risks and consequences associated with impaired driving. Make a plan to pick them up if they don’t have a safe ride home.
According to the NHSTA, in 2018, speed was a factor in 28 percent of the fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Talk to your teens about the deadly dangers of speeding.
Before your teenager heads out on the open road this summer, be sure to talk to them about the 100 Deadliest Days. Parents can teach their teen safe driving through education, but being a model for safe driving is even better, and remember—buckle up every trip, every time.
For tips on keeping your teen driver safe, visit the following resources:
- New Hampshire Teen Driver Program
- National Highway traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- New Hampshire Parent's Supervised Driving Program Booklet
The Injury Prevention Center in partnership with the New Hampshire Office of Highway Safety encourages everyone to share the road and get to where you are going safely.
Christopher R. Bishop is the Teen Driver Program coordinator with Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Injury Prevention Center.