The following editorial appeared in the Cumberland (Maryland) Times-News, a CNHI newspaper. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.
The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is referred to as “The 100 Deadliest Days” because of the number of people who die on America’s roads in traffic accidents involving teenage drivers.
It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why. They’re not in school, where except for coming and going they wouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car.
From 2013 to 2017, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in accidents that involved a teenage driver during the 100 deadly days. The average number of deaths from crashes involving drivers aged 15 to18 is 17 percent higher than it is during non-summer days.
Teen drivers have a higher probability of being involved in an accident. Part of that has to do with a relative lack of experience behind the wheel, but more likely it’s because they are easily distracted or prone to reckless behavior.
Speeding accounts for 28 percent of fatal crashes, drinking and driving cause 17 percent and distraction is a factor in 9 percent.
The AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index indicates the following:
• Speeding significantly increases the severity of a crash and is a growing problem among teen drivers. Nearly half of teen drivers reported speeding on a residential street in the past 30 days and nearly 40 percent say they sped on the freeway.
• 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.
• More than half of teen drivers report reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days and nearly 40 percent report sending a text or email. It is difficult for law enforcement to detect distraction following a crash, which has made distracted driving one of the most under-reported traffic safety issues.
AAA Foundation research using in-vehicle dash-cam videos of teen driver crashes found distraction was involved in 58 percent of teen crashes, approximately four times as many as federal estimates.
The most common forms of distraction leading to crashes by teen drivers are the following:
• Interacting with one or more passengers.
• Cellphone use.
• Looking at something in the vehicle.
• Looking at something outside the vehicle.
• Singing or moving to music.
• Reaching for an object.
Researchers found that drivers manipulating their cellphone (includes calling, texting or other uses), had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 out of the final six seconds leading up to a crash.
Teen drivers using a cellphone failed to react more than half of the time before the impact, meaning they crashed without braking or steering.
Those who habitually drive while distracted probably haven’t seen what happens when a vehicle suddenly leaves the road, or when two or more vehicles come into sudden and violent contact with each other.
Teens can make deadly mistakes on the road, and parents are the best line of defense to keep everyone safe behind the wheel. They should remain actively involved in their teen’s learning-to-drive process, and modeling safe driving behaviors themselves.
To keep roads safer this summer, AAA encourages parents to:
• 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.
• Join their teens in taking the pledge not to drive distracted at www.AAA.com/DontDriveDistracted.
“Teens should also prepare for summer driving by practicing safety during every trip,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, public and government affairs manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“Storing your phone out of reach, minding the speed limit, and staying away from impairing substances like alcohol and marijuana will help prevent many crashes from ever occurring,” she said.
Police officers have told us that one of the worst duties they have – if not THE worst – is having to notify next of kin that someone they know and love has been killed or badly injured in a traffic accident.
Next to “Don’t Drive While Impaired,” “Hang Up and Drive” is the best advice anyone can give to a motorist, teenaged or otherwise.
Adults, who supposedly are older and wiser, also are guilty of it. They should know better.