During the ‘100 Deadliest Days’, unsafe driving behavior causes a seasonal spike.

As the school year draws to a close, the chance to trade homework for summer jobs and socializing is an exciting prospect for many American teens. But novice drivers are especially vulnerable during the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Over each of the past five years, an average of 700 people died in a teen-related crash, and according to AAA’s latest research, the problem is getting worse.

Since 2014, the number of teen-related crash fatalities nationwide has increased each summer, with 640 that year, and 736 in 2017, the most recent year on record.

In 2017, more than 2,000 Idaho drivers ages 19 and younger were involved in fatal or injury traffic crashes – that’s twice as many as would be expected based on their population size. As a group, they were also disproportionately cited for speeding, inattentive driving, following too close, and failing to stop at stop signs and signals.

“Inexperienced drivers sometimes fail to see the relationship between poor driving habits and the likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. “But after teens receive their license, their education is just beginning. Parents should continue to provide valuable feedback to help youthful drivers hone their skills.”

Mastering safe driving techniques is important, because novice drivers put everyone at risk. According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen drivers themselves.

Based on an analysis of new crash data from 2013-2017, the major factors that contribute to the 100 Deadliest Days include:

Speeding (28 percent)

Drinking and driving (17 percent)

Distraction (9 percent)

“There’s a big difference between what we know, and what we can prove contributed to a particular crash,” Conde said. “But the data show that some of these numbers are very conservative – we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

In the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, half of teens reported speeding on a residential street in the past 30 days, and nearly 40 percent say they sped on the freeway.

Although teens cannot legally drink, one in six youthful drivers involved in fatal crashes during the summer months tested positive for alcohol.

Distraction is hard to identify as a contributing factor in a typical crash, but according to AAA’s research, the number of distracted drivers is extremely underreported. More than half of teen drivers say that they have read a text or email while driving in the past 30 days, and nearly 40 percent report sending a text or email. In addition, AAA Foundation research determined that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of teen crashes – four times as many as federal estimates.

Parents will play an important part in keeping the roads safer this summer by talking with their teens about safe driving. But parents will influence teens the most by the example they set.

“We’re asking our teens to fight the temptation to engage in risky behavior, but as parents, the way we drive may be a bit of a double-standard,” Conde said. “If it isn’t dangerous for us to be unsafe, then why would our teens think that it’s dangerous for them?”

Rather than drafting a parent-teen driving agreement that only sets rules for teen drivers, families should consider a driving agreement that applies the same rules for everyone.

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