Memorial Day Serves as the Start of Summer Season and Danger for Teens behind the Wheel
May 28th was Memorial Day, a day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. While this day serves as the unofficial kickoff to the summer vacation season, it’s also a time parents of young drivers should pay extra attention to their child’s driving habits. That’s because, sadly, Memorial Day has now become what the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation calls the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers.
Teens More at Risk for Fatal Auto Accidents During the Summer Months
The AAA Foundation reviewed five years of research during its study of teen drivers during summer months and what they found was heartbreaking. From 2010 – 2014, statistics showed that starting on Memorial Day, and for the 100 days following, traffic deaths involving teenagers age 16-19 increased by 16 percent compared to other times of the year. The four years of research showed that in the 100 days following Memorial Day, more than 5,100 people were killed in car accidents involving teen drivers.
Colorado has also seen its share of teen deaths due to vehicle crashes. According to one news report, 18 young drivers died in 2016 due to vehicle crashes. While upsetting, that was actually better than previous years. In 2015, 24 teenagers were killed in accidents, 26 died in 2015, and 28 teens were killed in 2014. So thankfully for Colorado, teen traffic deaths are going down, but nationwide, there are still way too many young drivers hurt and killed in car accidents. On average, six teenagers die every day in vehicle crashes. In 2015, that accounted for more than 2300 deaths and nearly 236,000 injuries.
Distracted Driving Still Main Cause of Accidents
Distracted driving continues to kill. In 2016, more than 3400 lives were lost and 391,000 people were injured in crashes due to distracted driving, with cellphones being a major factor. According to the most recent AAA study, highlighted in the Denver Post due to its focus on Colorado drivers, those using cell phones are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a vehicle accident as compared to those drivers not using a phone.
When it comes to teenagers and various distractions, a 2015 AAA study comprehensively reviewed teen drivers using video cameras placed in vehicles. The research video showed that 6 out of 10 crashes were due to a distraction; the driver was shown doing something other than focusing on driving just before the accident. Of the 1700 videos studied:
- 12 percent of those involved in an accident were using a cell phone just prior to the crash
- 15 percent were talking to other passengers in the vehicle
- 10 percent were looking around the vehicle rather than looking at the road
- Six percent were actually grooming themselves rather than paying attention to driving
As Colorado’s AAA spokesman, Skyler McKinley, noted in the Denver article,
“That so many drivers regularly engage in these deadly behaviors is evidence of an ‘It could never happen to me’ mindset. Today’s report should make one thing clear: Motorists are putting themselves, other road users, pedestrians, and property at significant risk every time they pick up the phone while driving.”
When driving, put your phone down. If you must make a call or send a text, pull over in a safe area and then use your phone.