Over the past five years, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers during the "100 Deadliest Days," the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the number of crash fatalities involving a teen driver historically rise.
New crash data from 2013-17 reveal major factors contributing to fatal teen crashes during the summer driving period include:
• Speeding (28%)
• Drinking and driving (17%)
• Distraction (9%)
“We know from crash statistics that teens are more susceptible to being involved in a crash,” said Tiffany Wright, president of AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety. “While these novice drivers may be prone to make mistakes early on, it’s imperative that we continue teaching them safe practices behind the wheel in hopes that they won’t engage in dangerous behaviors that put themselves and others at risk.”
Over the 100 Deadliest Days in South Carolina last year, there were 7,482 collisions involving a teen driver resulting in 2,128 injuries and 16 teen fatalities, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety. This is double the amount of teens killed from the year before, but is much lower than the 24-fatality average of the three years prior.
Nationally, AAA Foundation research found that nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen behind the wheel. Crashes for teen drivers increase significantly during the summer because teens are out of school and driving more. Over the past five years during the “100 Deadliest Days”:
• An average of almost 700 people died each year in crashes involving teen drivers.
• The average number of deaths from crashes involving teen drivers ages 15-18 was 17% higher per day compared to other days of the year.
Reckless behavior like drinking and driving, speeding and distraction are contributing to the alarming number of crash deaths involving teen drivers each summer.
Speeding significantly increases the severity of a crash and is a growing problem among teen drivers.
In the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, half (49.7%) of teen drivers reported speeding on a residential street in the past 30 days and nearly 40% say they sped on the freeway.
And despite the fact that teens cannot legally consume alcohol, one in six teen drivers involved in fatal crashes during the summer tested positive for alcohol.
Plus, more than half of teen drivers (52%) in the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index report reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days and nearly 40% report sending a text or email.
While it is difficult for law enforcement to detect distraction following a crash, which has made distracted driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues, additional AAA Foundation research using in-vehicle dash-cam videos of teen driver crashes found distraction was involved in 58% of teen crashes, approximately four times as many as federal estimates.
So what should parents do to help ensure the safety of teenagers? AAA advises:
• Talk with teens early and often about abstaining from dangerous behavior behind the wheel, such as speeding, impairment and distracted driving.
• Teach by example and minimize risky behavior when driving.
• Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.
Regardless of the parental role, teens should be aware of the dangers and realize they are not invincible.
As Wright says: “Teens should also prepare for summer driving by practicing safety during every trip. Putting their cell phone down with both hands on the wheel, obeying traffic safety laws and staying away from impairing substances like alcohol and drugs will help prevent many crashes from ever occurring.”