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Summer Turns Up The Heat On Teen Car Crashes

Any teenager with a driver’s license and access to a car knows that cruising around with friends during summer vacation is one of life’s great joys.  Unfortunately for teens, it’s also one of life’s great dangers.

A number of factors combine to make summertime driving especially hazardous for young drivers. For one thing, freed from the confines of the classroom, they spend far more hours behind the wheel than they do during the school year.  According to SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), teenagers spend 44% more time behind the wheel in the summer months than they do while school is in session.  That translates to 23.6 hours versus 16.4 hours during the school year, a considerable amount of time during which they’re at increased risk for being involved in a crash.

The National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), says that drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 are at the highest risk for an accident between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Teen drivers are also more likely to be behind the wheel at nighttime during the summer months.  In fact, studies show that almost 75% of teenagers say they stay out later during summer vacation, and 47% get behind the wheel more often late at night during the summer months. That’s bad news because there’s a direct correlation between night driving and crashes in this age group, especially among the youngest drivers. Statistics reveal that of all driving fatalities for teens between the ages of 16 and 19, 27% of them occur at night between the hours of 9p.m. and 2.a.m.  Night driving teen, who are allowed to stay out later during the summer months than during the school year, are also more likely to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol, which adds to the risk of having a crash.

Another risk is the increase of peer passengers in teen-driven vehicles during the summer.  According to SADD, 23% of teens get behind the wheel with three or more teenage passengers during the summer months, versus 6% while school is in session.   Studies show a direct correlation between the number of teen passengers and teen driver accidents.  As the number of passengers increases, so does distracted teen driving, which in turns leads to more crashes. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), drivers aged 16 and 17 average 1.6 crashes for every 10,000 trips with no passengers, 2.3 crashes with one passenger, 3.3 crashes with two passengers, and 6.3 crashes with three or more passengers.

If you’re a parent and these statistics alarm you, there are steps you can take to keep your teen driver safer during the summer months.  First of all, talk to them about driving under the influence, even if you’ve done it before. Secondly, remind them of the dangers of distracted driving.  Whether it’s talking on the phone, texting, talking to passengers, eating, or messing around with the radio or CD player, distractions are especially hazardous for young, inexperienced drivers.

Seat belts are another thing to remind them about, because seat belt use is lowest among teen drivers – and having a seatbelt on during a crash can mean the difference between life and death.  Always set a curfew for young drivers – the earlier the better as far as driving safety is concerned. And limit the number of passengers they’re allowed to have in the car.  As statistics show, the fewer the teenage passengers in the car, the less likely they are to get into an accident.

Setting clear rules for summer driving can have a big impact on keeping your young driver – and their passengers – safe on the road during what should be one of the happiest times of their young lives.