News media and safety advocacy agencies have issued numerous reports regarding how dangerous driving can be for teenagers. Tragically, the fatal death crash rate for teenagers between the ages of 16 through 19 is three times higher than the range for drivers who are 20 years of age or older. Particular at risk are teens between the ages of 16 and 17. Their fatal crash rate per mile driven is twice as high as for 18- and 19-year-olds.
July marks the midpoint of what law enforcement and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) call the “100 Deadliest Days” for teens. According to national statistics, the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the most dangerous on the nation’s roads for drivers between the ages of 16 through 19.
Between 2010 through 2014, there were more than 5,000 people killed in crashes caused by teen drivers during those 100 days, which means that on an annual basis, 1,000 people – 10 per day – are killed during the summer months.
The most common cause of teen car crashes is distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for almost half of all fatal teen car crashes. One study, utilizing drivecams, discovered in the last six seconds leading up to a crash, 15 percent of teen drivers were talking to other people in the car, 12 percent were using a cell phone, either to talk or text, and 11 percent were distracted by something else in the vehicle and not paying attention to the road.
One of the most logical reasons for the spike in fatal teen car crashes is because of the summer break from school. This means that many teen drivers are on the road, participating in summer activities. Often they are traveling with friends in the car and this adds another increased risk of being in an auto accident. According to studies by the National Safety Council, having friends in the car with them can increase the risk of an accident for a teen driver by approximately 43 percent.
In the past few years, North Carolina had the tragic distinction of having one of the highest number of teen driving deaths in the country. This is why it is critical for parents and educators to make sure teens understand the dangers of distracted driving, as well as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Teens should also buckle up as soon as they get into a vehicle and always heed the posted speed limit.