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How To Keep Your Teen Driver Safe During The Deadly Summer Driving Season

By Aaron Crowe

Summer is the deadliest time of the year for teenage drivers, with seven of the 10 deadliest days of the year happening between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to AAA.

An average of 422 teens die in traffic crashes during each of the summer months, 16% more than the monthly average of 363 teen deaths during non-summer months, AAA says.

Unless you’re going to keep the car keys out of your teen’s hands, keeping them safe may feel like an impossible task as the care-free days of summer pass by. Being an inexperienced driver, distracted by other teens in the car, or using a smartphone while driving are some of the things that can cause teens to crash.

But there are ways to help them become better drivers. Here are some from AAA, parents and driving experts:

Restrict driving. A teen’s crash risk is highest during the first year of solo driving, according to AAA, so parents should limit teens’ driving to essential trips and only with parental permission during at least the first year of driving.

Laura Hedgecock, who has a business helping writers, does some of this with her teenager in Michigan, only allowing him to driver around their immediate community on surface roads. His parents avoid sending him out on errands around rush hour and they occasionally ride with him to check his progress, Hedgecock says. Also, until he has had his driver’s license for six months, he can only have one other teen in the car and can’t be out past 10 p.m.

Limit teen passengers. As Hedgecock has done with her son, limiting teenage passengers can lower crash rates. AAA says that fatal crash rates for 16- to 19-year-olds increase fivefold when two or more teen passengers are in a car versus a teen driving alone.

No night driving. AAA also recommends limiting evening driving. A teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash double when driving at night, AAA says. More than half of nighttime crashes happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Sign a contract. A contract between parents and teens can spell out driving rules, link mileage to GPA and detail the number of days a teen will be suspended for various traffic infractions.

Use apps to stop texting while driving. As we’ve written before, there are many smartphone applications that can prevent a phone from being used while a car is in motion. Most are cheap — $5 or less — though some have monthly charges.

Use the car’s technology. Many new cars have technologies to help drivers see behind them easier, look out for cross traffic and blindspots, but most Ford vehicles add to this with what they call MyKey technology to help parents place restrictions on the keys that teen drivers use to operate their vehicles.

The keys can be programmed to not allow the car radio to be activated until all seat belts are fastened, the radio volume can be limited by parents, speed control can be set, and incoming texts and calls can be blocked and stored for later retrieval.

Set a good example. As with many things as a parent, leading by example can be the best way to show your teen how to do something well. The “Drive It Home” program created by the National Safety Council and The Allstate Foundation recommends sitting beside your teen driver as they drive, driving the way you want your teen to drive, and having teens earn driving privileges.

Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for