Memorial Day to Labor Day is called the 100 Deadliest Days. These are the days during the summer months where driving fatalities are at their highest, especially for teenagers. In fact, over the past five years, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers during this three-month duration.
But why? “Teenagers are out of school, there are more activities available for them, and often they are very new drivers,” says Malcolm Creighton MD, chair of Hospital Based Specialties and Emergency Medicine at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.
Distracted and Drunk in the Dark
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there are certain factors behind these crashes. Based on their 2018 report, 36% of all motor vehicle fatalities involving teen drivers occurred between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. “The exuberance of youth, inexperienced drivers, alcohol, and darkness make for a deadly combination,” says Creighton.
Speed is another factor. “With dry roads during New England summers, everyone is driving faster,” says Creighton. When you add in distracted driving, especially using a mobile device while on the road, the dangers of driving can skyrocket. A 2018 study by the Journal of Adolescent Health notes that 38% of teenagers admitted to driving and texting at least once prior to being surveyed. “Texting is not only addictive but the main connection to their peers. They usually get away with it and so it seems benign until something bad happens with a two-ton automobile.”
And then there is driving while under the influence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely than anyone else to be killed in an alcohol-related crash. “I believe it is because the consequences are not obvious to them and alcohol reduces inhibitions, judgment and reaction times.”
How to Break Through
Ultimately, the goal is to have honest, candid conversations with your teens about staying safe year round.
Creighton says “parents may avoid talking to their kids about these issues because they feel like they won’t be listened to, but it’s important to offer them alternatives.” Instead of getting in the car with a driver under the influence, “kids should know they can pick up the phone and call their parent or guardian for a ride. There will be no guilt or judgment at the time, but maybe a conversation about these behaviors later down the road.”
For more ways to speak with your teen about the dangers of drinking/texting and driving, speak with your health care provider.