Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May, is a federal holiday for remembering people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. Sadly, Memorial Day has now become what the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation calls the start of the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers.
The foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, did research over a 5-year span that showed more than 5,100 people were killed in car accidents involving teen drivers between Memorial Day and the next 100 days. Jurek Grabowski, a researcher for the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety, said:
Every day during the summer drive season, 10 people die as a result from injuries from a crash involving a teen driver. This new research shows that distraction continues to be one of the leading causes of crashes for teen drivers. By better understanding how teens are distracted on the road, we can better prevent deaths throughout the 100 Deadliest Days and the rest of the year.
Distracted Driving Is Deadly
Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) is a nonprofit organization that promotes and supports science-based, peer-to-peer educational training, programs and events, awareness campaigns, and leadership development opportunities. Who better to try and hammer home a message to teens than other teens?
That’s just what SADD is doing. While texting is often pointed to as the leading distraction for drivers, SADD notes something else that’s equally, if not more distracting: interacting with other passengers in the car. This information is supported by the AAA Foundation, which notes the risk of overcrowding in a car driven by a 16- or 17-year-old driver. The risk of being killed in a crash increases with each additional teenage passenger in the vehicle, according to the Foundation. Specifically:
- The risk increases 44 percent with one passenger
- It doubles with two passengers
- It quadruples with three or more passengers.
AAA Foundation also did comprehensive research that studied video recordings of nearly 1,700 teen drivers with an in-car camera. Researchers reviewed the six seconds before an accident involving a teen driver, and they found:
- 15 percent of the crashes occurred when the teen driver was talking or attending to other passengers in the vehicle.
- 12 percent of the crashes occurred when the teen driver was using a cell phone.
- 11 percent of the crashes occurred when the teen driver was looking for something in the car.
An Active Role in Safety
Authorities say awareness alone will not fix the problem, but that it will take a combination of actions to change behaviors. Research shows that teens whose parents take an active role in their teen’s driver education are involved in fewer and less severe crashes.
One thing parents can do is to enter a safe-driving agreement with their teen. A leading insurance company has even developed a downloadable Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. There is an agreement developed for each state, and Colorado’s reflects Colorado state laws.
So, as we near Memorial Day, take time to honor our fallen service men and women and take time to talk to your teen about safety behind the wheel. You’ll be glad you did.