PORTLAND — 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 rises. New crash data from 2013-2017 reveals major factors contributing to fatal teen crashes during the summer driving period include: speeding (28 percent), drinking and driving (17 percent), and distraction (9 percent)
“Crash data shows that teens are a vulnerable driver group with a higher probability of being involved in crashes,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “And while teens may make mistakes when first learning to drive, it is important to continue educating them about safety behind the wheel so they avoid the reckless behaviors that put themselves and others at risk on the road.”
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 percent 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 percent) of teen drivers reported speeding on a residential street in the past 30 days and nearly 40 percent say they sped on the freeway.
Drinking and driving
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.
Distraction — an underreported problem
More than half of teen drivers (52 percent) 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 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 underreported traffic safety issues.
Additional AAA Foundation research using in-vehicle dash-cam videos of teen driver crashes found distraction was involved in 58 percent of teen crashes, about four times as many as federal estimates.
“Parents have plenty to be concerned about as their teen hits the road this summer,” said Moody. “Teens are making deadly mistakes on the road. Parents are the best line of defense to keep everyone safe behind the wheel.”
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.
“Teens should also prepare for summer driving by practicing safety during every trip,” said Moody. “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.”
AAA Northern New England has an ongoing distracted driving campaign, “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” The goal is to make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as alcohol-impaired driving. The initiative targets drivers who would never consider drinking alcohol behind the wheel, and yet, regularly engage with mobile devices when driving. AAA is encouraging all motorists to activate the “do not disturb while driving” function on their smart phone to minimize distractions while driving. For more information, go to AAA.com/dontdrivedistracted.