The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day marks the “100 Deadliest Days” for teenage driving, according to the American Automobile Association, with the number of fatal crashes involving teen drivers increasing 15 percent compared with the rest of the year.
What accounts for the tragic increase?
With the weather warming up, there are plenty of young drivers on the road enjoying their newfound freedom. As the number of young drivers increases, unfortunately, so does the risk of automobile accidents.
“Nighttime driving plays a significant role in teen crashes and fatalities. During the summer months, when school is out, recent studies from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) show a 22 percent increase in the average number of nighttime (9 p.m.-5 a.m.) crashes per day involving teen drivers. Parents should strongly consider limiting nighttime driving during the summer,” said Courtney Allen Van Winkle, a personal injury attorney at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen.
Other risk factors include illegal alcohol use, distracted driving and not wearing seat belts, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Before you take away the car keys from your son or daughter, it’s important to remember that many accidents can be prevented by taking a few precautions. Here are a few ways to help your teen be as safe as possible on the road this summer.
Have frank conversations
Don’t assume they learn everything they need to know in their driver’s education course. (Have you ever had to tell your teenager something twice?) Many don’t fully understand the risks involved in driving, so don’t be afraid to talk to them openly and honestly about it.
If you aren’t sure how to begin the conversation, check the web. Many organizations, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), End Distracted Driving (EndDD) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), have presentations and materials that can begin and guide your discussion.
Set your own rules
Setting clearly defined rules can help prevent many of the tragic outcomes brought on by distracted driving. For instance, you could restrict cellphone use, limit nighttime driving, or insist that no passengers ride in the car.
The odds of teen driving accidents increase when multiple people are in a vehicle, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If you want to take it an extra step, create a parent-teen driving agreement to make expectations clear, suggests AAA.
Invest in a larger and newer car
Though the type of car you buy won’t necessarily equate to a lower accident risk, certain cars are better than others when it comes to your teen’s safety. Rather than opting for a cute, sporty vehicle that may tempt them to speed, consider buying a heavier, larger car.
"In general, bigger, heavier vehicles perform better in crash tests," said Chris Cloude, a Claims Consultant with Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen.
If you are able to do so, consider allowing your teen to drive a newer model vehicle that is equipped with safe driving technology. “Recent studies from NHTSA reveal that newer model vehicles are safer than older model vehicles, and that occupants of newer model vehicles are less likely to be severely injured or killed than occupants of older model vehicles,” said Ashley Davis, an attorney with Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen.
Teach them car maintenance basics
There are many responsible, safe teenage drivers on the road, but even the most cautious ones may find themselves in difficult situations beyond their control. What happens if they blow a tire on the freeway or if the engine starts to overheat?
Basic skills such as knowing how to check the oil, change a tire and monitor gauges in the car are essential for helping your teen stay safe on the road. Being stranded on the side of the highway is not the best time to learn.
Lead by example
As always, the most effective way to teach is to lead by example. Observing the safe habits of parents and adults encourages younger drivers to follow suit, so resist the urge to speed or check your phone — even if your children aren’t in the car with you. Remember that the rules of safety also apply to you.
Sometimes accidents happen no matter how many precautions you take. If your teenager has been involved in an automobile accident, get legal help right away. The attorneys at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen will fight to obtain justice for you.