Summer is a time to hit the road and head out to the beach, but it also has become known as the deadliest time of year to be on the roadways for one reason: teenagers.
“Part of it is teenagers have more exposure,” said Georjeane Blumling, vice president of public affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “During the school year, most of their traveling has to do with school activities, but in the summer they have more free time and jobs so there’s a tendency to be out on the road more.”
Blumling said that’s especially a problem in Hampton Roads because it attracts so many tourists, putting more drivers on the roads.
To bring awareness to the issue, AAA Tidewater Virginia started the “100 Deadliest Days” campaign, which informs people of the higher risk for crashes and death during the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
On average, 700 people die each year across the nation due to crashes involving teen drivers. During the summer, the numbers escalate by 17 percent. The leading causes are speeding, drinking and driving and distraction.
“Teens have a lot of risky behaviors and they have a higher likelihood to speed while driving, an increased chance of alcohol use because they have more free time and distractions,” she said. “We all have distractions, but teens especially do and they don’t have the experience to deal with all of the extra traffic.”
Distraction on the road is seen as an underreported number among drivers because it is difficult to detect distraction after a crash. According to data gathered by AAA, 52 percent of teen drivers were reading a text message or email while driving.
Speeding becomes a large issue because it increases the severity of a crash and is a problem that continues to grow among teen drivers over the past few years. The Traffic Safety Culture Index found that half of teen drivers were reported speeding in residential areas and 40 percent speed on the freeway.
Studies have also shown that despite teenagers not being allowed to legally drink, one in six drivers in fatal crashes were found to be under the influence.
It isn’t just teen drivers that have to worry about the danger on the road. AAA Research Foundation found that almost two-thirds of people who were injured or killed in teen-related crashes were not teenagers.
Blumling said the best way to protect yourself as a driver is first, to make sure everyone in a vehicle is wearing their seatbelt. But also that parents should be discussing not only general driver safety with their teenagers, but specifically addressing why driving during the summer is so dangerous.
During the 100 Deadliest Days, AAA of Tidewater Virginia encourages parents and teen drivers to educate themselves on certain safety precautions by looking for examples of safe driving and learning from them. Blumling said one proactive step families can take is creating a parent-teen driving agreement.
“It gives opportunity for teens to talk about dangers and restrictions, such as driving during rush hour,” she said. “It opens up that dialogue before parents release kids onto the road.”