It’s the 100 Deadliest Days, are you ready?

Interstate highway traffic (Joshua Weinstein/Southside Daily)
Interstate highway traffic (Southside Daily file)

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.”

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.