100 Deadliest days for teen drivers: Tips for staying safe | PEMCO

May 10, 2024 by PEMCO Insurance

GettyImages-89793622.jpgMay marks the beginning of the most dangerous time of the year for teen drivers. AAA has dubbed the time between Memorial Day (May 27 this year) and Labor Day (September 2 this year) as the “100 deadliest days for teens.” New teen drivers—ages 16 and 17—are more likely to be involved in a deadly crash during this time than any other time of the year. 
Why these months?  Researchers say the combination of end-of-school events (think commencement, graduation parties, prom), more unstructured time and late nights once school is out, and driving on more unfamiliar routes, all contribute to the spike in crashes during this window of time. 
Having a new driver is a nerve-wracking time for parents and other loved ones, especially considering the fact that teens already have a fatal crash rate three times that of adults, even outside the summer months.  

In order to help you worry less and live more (and sleep a little more soundly at night to boot!), our experts will dive into some practical tips to help you equip and empower your young drivers to stay safe on the road. 

How can I help young drivers be safer? 

Parents can guide their teens many ways (see more on that below), but these two areas will have the biggest impact on their safety: 

  1. Limiting teen passengers in their vehicles: The top distraction for teens is other passengers, accounting for 15% of teen driver crashes (compared to the 12% caused by phone use). 

  1. Avoiding impaired driving at all costs: Alcohol-impaired drivers account for 30% of all car crash fatalities in the United States. 

How does limiting teen passengers reduce crashes? 

The risk of a fatal crash goes up 44% when a teen has passengers in the car, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). A study by the University of North Carolina—which observed its 52 teen participants by mounting a camera on their dash—shows why: having fellow teen passengers in the car is downright distracting. 

Teen drivers coping with loud conversations were six times more likely to have near-miss situations, which essentially means dealing with situations that required evasive maneuvers. When there was horseplay in the car, that risk went up three times.  
Researchers also noted that behaviors teens could control (eating, using a phone) were less likely to lead to trouble than distractors they couldn’t (rowdy or noisy friends). NSC analysts suggested the difference may be as simple as duration. Distraction from eating or phones lasts only seconds or minutes, while friends are along for the entire ride. 
To help, parents can strictly enforce the state’s graduated licensing laws, which limit the number of passengers new drivers can carry. For example, Washington state if you’re under the age of 18, you cannot have any passengers under the age of 20 in your vehicle, unless they’re immediate family members. This restriction lasts for the first six months of having your license.  

Here are some other guardrails you could consider implementing in your household to keep your teen, their friends, and other drivers safe: 

  1. Consider “house rules” that go beyond the law’s graduated licensing laws. For example, in Washington, teen drivers can have up to three teen passengers after their first six months of safe driving. You might consider something a little more conservative during your teen’s first year. 

  1. Consider driving curfews based not on the clock, but on darkness. Driving after dark is another factor that increases the risk of teen crashes, according to the NSC. 

  1. Consider forming a carpool group with the parents of your teens’ friends to help prevent the young drivers from needing to rely on themselves for transportation to and from events. 

How can I discourage my teen from driving impaired? 

Driving impaired—whether under the influence of drugs or alcohol— is involved in 19% of fatal teen crashes. Even more shocking—AAA’s teen driving survey found that 87% of teens believed their friends would be more likely to drive after drinking than calling a parent, for fear of getting in trouble. 

Our tip? Rather than focusing on the intoxicant (alcohol, marijuana or anything else) some parents have found success in shifting the conversation to staying out of the car if the teen or the driver they’re with feels less than 100% competent to drive. That includes times when the driver is sleepy, sick, excessively emotional (angry, crying, stressed out, confrontational etc.) and, of course, intoxicated. 
Our team recommends you encourage young drivers to call you for a no-questions-asked ride home any time day or night. Or, if they can’t reach you, let them know that you’ll pay for a taxi or rideshare (Uber, Lyft). When you focus on the safe choice, and not the reason behind that choice, your teen might feel more empowered to make the right call. 

What other safety tips should all teen drivers know? 

  • Wearing a seatbelt is non-negotiable. Among teen drivers and passengers who were killed in car crashes in 2020, 56% of them were not wearing a seatbelt. It doesn’t hurt to remind young drivers often: Always, always wear your seatbelt. 

  • Texting and driving is never ok. There are several downloadable apps/softwares that will limit cell phone usage while driving. Although having passengers is the biggest distraction for young drivers, phone usage is not far behind. 

  • Be aware of the top eight leading causes of teen crashes and injuries, also known as the “eight danger zones:"

    Driver inexperience 

    Driving with other teen passengers 

    Driving at night 

    Not using seatbelts 

    Distracted driving (phone use, eating, etc.) 

    Drowsy driving 

    Reckless driving 

    Impaired driving 

Ready to learn more about helping your teen mature into a safe driver? Check out our Teen Driving BlogYou can also check out these resources to learn more about driving safely during the most dangerous 100 days for teens: 

100 Deadliest Days of Summer - We Save Lives 
100 Deadliest Days | Ultimate Defensive Driving 
AAA: “100 Deadliest Days” for Teen Drivers Start | AAA Oregon/Idaho 

While having a young driver can be a nerve-wracking season of life, we hope these tips help you equip and empower your teen to make smart choices on and off the road so you can worry less and live more. 

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