WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, May 27, 2020) –– As motorists return to the road during eased travel restrictions, so begins the season when teen drivers are most at risk. The combination of schools closed, activities curtailed, summer jobs canceled, and COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, could prove deadly as teens take to the road this summer. AAA recommends that now is a good time for parents to both model safe driving behaviors and help ensure their teens practice them too.
Heading into the deadliest days of the year for teen drivers, law enforcement officials and highway safety advocates, including AAA Mid-Atlantic, continue to sound the alarm about excessive speeding on streets, roadways and freeways across the region and the nation amid COVID-19 protocols. As traffic is making a comeback on area roadways, it behooves parents to caution their teenagers to avoid copy-catting or emulating such reckless behavior on residential streets and freeways this summer, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic.
In the wake of statewide school closures, parents and teens must be extra cautious and extra vigilant this summer, the longest “cultural summer” in years. This year, it stretches 106 days, instead of a typical span of 99 days, potentially elongating the number of the “deadliest days” on the road for rookie teenage drivers and their passengers during “cultural summer.”
Across Washington, D.C., and the states of Maryland and Virginia nearly 300 persons lost their lives killed in crashes involving teen drivers during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day over the course of the past ten years, cautions AAA Mid-Atlantic.
More specifically, in the District of Columbia, five people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in the past ten years during the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. During this period, 119 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in Maryland, and 173 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in Virginia.
Nationwide, more than 8,300 people died in teen-related summertime crashes from 2008 to 2018. That’s more than seven people a day each summer as compared to the rest of the year (six people/day).
“The last decade of crash data shows that teens continue to be over-represented in crashes and summertime marks an increase of fatal crashes for this age group,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our data analysis has found that for every mile driven, new teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults.”
“Unfortunately, during the quarantine, a number of drivers behaved badly and turned roadways into speedways. Throughout the summer months, and as traffic volume increases as the states reopen, parents must continually warn their teens about breaking road rules, such as zooming over the speed limit on a residential street or a freeway,” explained John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
“Underscoring the inherent dangers on the highway for teens, nearly half of all teens surveyed by AAA admitted to speeding on residential streets and highways in the past 30 days. Due to their inexperience, teen drivers are at a higher risk of crashes.”
According to the new AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, about 72% of teen drivers aged 16-18 admitted to having engaged in at least one of the following risky behaviors in the past 30 days:
Driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street (47%)
Driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway (40%)
Red-light running (32%)
Aggressive driving (31%)
Drowsy driving (25%)
Driving without a seatbelt (17%)
“Parents remain the best line of defense to keep everyone safe behind the wheel,” said Jennifer Ryan, AAA’s Director of State Relations. “It’s never too soon to educate teens on the dangers of distracted driving, speeding, and the impairing effects of alcohol and marijuana. But we can’t just tell teens about the dangers. We must also refrain from engaging in risky driving behaviors and ensure we are modeling good behavior.”
To keep roads safer this summer, AAA encourages parents to:
To support parents in conducting practice driving sessions during COVID-19 and beyond, AAA is providing a free four-page guide to help parents coach their teens on how to drive safely.
The “Coaching Your New Driver – An In-Car Guide for Parents” AAA ParentCoachingGuide 2020 offers behind-the-wheel lesson plans, including a variety of “DOs and DON’Ts” to make the learning experience as helpful as possible.
For parents, the guide can be beneficial as they coach their teens on a variety of routes, building on their formal behind-the-wheel training. Teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.
Amid closed school houses, and the phased reopening procedures, this will be the longest period between Memorial Day and Labor Day in years, with the earliest possible arrival of Memorial Day, which occurred on May 25, and with Labor Day arriving as late as it possibly can on Monday, September 7th.
That means this summer will be seven days longer, or an extra week longer. It could increase the mileage driven by inexperienced teen drivers, and intensify their “risk exposure” during summertime, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic.
TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart Parent Session also offers excellent resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by researching their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
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