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EDITORIAL: Beware: 100 Deadliest Days for teen drivers
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EDITORIAL: Beware: 100 Deadliest Days for teen drivers

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Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of summer and unfortunately a dangerous time of year for young drivers. Nationwide, more than 30% of deaths involving teen drivers occur during what’s called the “100 Deadliest Days” – a period that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

“Now that the CDC has lifted many pandemic restrictions, young adults are eager to reconnect with friends, which means young inexperienced drivers will spend more time on the roads,” said Tiffany Wright, public affairs director for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “This increases the chances that they’re involved in a crash, and for every mile driven, new teen drivers (ages 16 to 17) are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults.”

Statistics from 2010-19 show:

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• Each year more than 2,000 teen drivers are involved in fatal crashes; 636 of those (30%) occurred during the 100 Deadliest Days.

• More than 7,038 people died in teen-related summertime crashes from 2010 to 2019. That’s more than seven people a day each summer compared to the rest of the year (six people/day).

• An average of 16 teen drivers in South Carolina is involved in fatal crashes during this time.

• On average, 66 are killed in South Carolina in teen driver-related crashes every year; a combined 44 of those occur during the 100 Deadliest Days.

• 260 people were killed in North Carolina and 182 people were killed in South Carolina in teen driver-related crashes during the past 10 summers.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens ages 16-19. In fact, six teens are killed each day in crashes that are entirely preventable. Per miles driven, teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be killed in a crash. Even the best and brightest teens have increased risk of being involved in a deadly crash.

“Teens lack the experience, skills and maturity of a seasoned driver, which contribute to an increase in the chance that there will be a deadly outcome, not just for the teen driver, but also for any passenger as well as others on the road,” Wright said. “So we all have a vested interest in ensuring that teens are safe behind the wheel.”

With South Carolina road deaths up from a year ago, teens and parents are urged to take seriously the risk on the road. They are advised of risky habits:

Driving with passengers. Teen drivers’ crash risks multiply when they have teen passengers. Set limits and enforce them.

Driving at night. Night driving is more dangerous due to limited visibility, fatigue, and impaired drivers on the road. This is especially a risky time for teens. Limit the time your novice driver spends behind the wheel at night.

Not wearing a safety belt. Wearing a safety belt greatly reduces the risk of being hurt or killed in a crash. Make a rule: Everyone buckles up for every trip.

Speeding. Speed is a leading factor in crashes for teens and adults. Teens need to follow posted speed limit and parents should set a good example and strong rules.

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Distracted driving. Teen passengers are the biggest distraction to teen drivers, but cell phones come in second. Many teens admit to interacting with their phone and in-car infotainment systems while behind the wheel despite clear dangers. Make a family rule covering these and other distractions that everyone abides by.

Drowsy driving. Teens have a hard time getting enough sleep and often struggle with drowsiness. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, and teens have the highest risk. Ensure everyone who is behind the wheel has gotten enough sleep.

Impaired driving. Driving impaired from alcohol and other drugs puts everyone at risk. Enforce strict zero tolerance rules with your teen and be a good role model.

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Parents, talk with teens early and often about abstaining from dangerous behavior behind the wheel. We all want them to be alive and uninjured when summer ends.

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