With deadly traffic crashes peaking for teens during the summer months of June, July, and August, AAA urges parents of teens to increase their focus on safety during the school-free months ahead. With seven of the top 10 deadliest days of the year occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day, summer is the deadliest time of year for teen drivers and passengers, according to an analysis of crash data completed by AAA.
“Parents should not underestimate the critical role they play in keeping their teens safe, especially during these high-risk months,” said Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs for the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club. “Life feels more care-free when school’s out and teens have more opportunities to drive or ride in cars late at night with other teens—a deadly mix. With the majority of the most dangerous days falling during the traditional summer vacation months, parents must realize that there is no summer break from safety and they have be vigilant about remaining involved and enforcing rules with their teens.”
According to AAA, over 7,300 teen drivers and passengers ages 13-19 died in traffic crashes between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays during the five-year period of 2005-2009. An average of 422 teens die in traffic crashes during each of the deadly summer months as compared to a monthly average of 363 teen deaths during the non-summer months.
Many states (including New Jersey) have restrictions on passengers and on night driving for teens under Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. A recent poll by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows a clear majority—seven out of 10 Americans—favor stricter enforcement of driving laws. But regardless of the law, parents play a critical role in keeping teens safe
“To keep teens safe during these dangerous months and year round, parents should go beyond compliance of state laws and make teens abide by rules of the house,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger.
Tips for Parents of Teen Drivers
Restrict driving and eliminate trips without purpose
Teens have three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, based on amount of miles driven, and a teen’s crash risk is highest during the first year of solo driving. Parents should limit teens’ driving to essential trips and only with parental permission for at least the first year of driving.
Become an effective driving coach
The best way for new teen drivers to gain experience is through parent-supervised practice driving, where parents can share the wisdom they’ve accumulated over many years of driving. Even after a teen has a license that allows solo driving, parents and teens should continue to practice driving together to help the teen manage increasingly more complex and challenging driving conditions.
Limit the number of teen passengers
Teen crash rates increase with each teen passenger in the vehicle. Fatal crash rates for 16- to 19-year-olds increase fivefold when two or more teen passengers are present versus when teens drive alone. Also, riding in a vehicle with a teen driver can be risky for teen passengers. Crash risk begins to increase at the age of 12, well before a teen can obtain a driver’s permit or license—and before many parents start to think about their children being at risk riding as a passenger of a teen driver. Parents should set firm rules against driving with teen passengers and restrict their teens from riding as a passenger with a teen driver.
Restrict night driving
A teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles when driving at night. Many parents rightly limit driving during the highest-risk late night hours, yet they should limit evening driving as well, as more than half of nighttime crashes occur between 9 pm and midnight. AAA recommends that newly licensed teens not drive after 9 or 10 pm unless accompanied by a responsible adult.
Establish a parent-teen driving agreement
Many parents and teens find written agreements help set and enforce clear rules about night driving, passengers, access to the car, and more. The AAA website offers a variety of tools and resources for parents and teens as they progress through the learning-to-drive process, to include AAA StartSmart, a free online resource based on a research-tested program for families developed by the National Institutes of Health.
For more information, tools, and resources, visit AAA online. The Teaching Your Teens to Drive coaching program is available by calling 800-327-3444. A parent-teen driving agreement is available on the teen driver safety website. AAA’s Teaching Your Teens to Drive coaching program is a great tool to help parents become effective driving coaches for their teens and is available at 800-327-3444. AAA offers a parent-teen driving agreement on its teen driver safety website.