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Teen Drivers Are Under Risk Of Car Accidents This Summer

As your high schooler looks forward to summer break, you should be aware that the summer months are dangerous for teenagers who drive and for other teens who ride with them. In short, the number of car accidents in Indiana increases as more inexperienced teenage drivers take to the roads and cause accidents each summer.

Car accidents are the leading cause of accidental death for American teenagers, but the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety calls the period between Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September the “100 Deadliest Days.”

The AAA Foundation says the number of fatalities in car accidents involving drivers aged 15 to 18 leaps from 6.3 per day to 7.4 per day during the 100 days of summer – a 17 percent increase.

In Indiana, data compiled by Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute says 44,633 or 13.1 percent of all drivers involved in Indiana collisions in 2017 were 15 to 20 years old, and young drivers were involved in 114 fatal collisions in 2017, a 6.5 percent increase from 2016.

Teen Driver Crash Statistics Are Alarming

Collisions involving young drivers in Indiana in 2017 killed a total of 127 people. (IU did not present the data according to time of year.)

More distressing is the AAA Foundation statement that “research found that nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen behind the wheel,” meaning passengers, other drivers, pedestrians and other innocent people.

Prior research by the AAA Foundation says that when a 16- or 17-year-old driver has another teen in the car, the risk of a fatal accident increases by 44 percent. The risk doubles (a 100 percent increase) with two passengers under 21, and quadruples with three or more passengers younger than 21.

In contrast, when a passenger 35 years old or older rides with a teen driver, the risk of a fatal accident falls by 62 percent.

In other words, teens in a car together distract each other, including causing distractions for the driver that can easily prove deadly.

Distracted Teenage Drivers an ‘Underreported Problem’

The AAA Foundation says that because it is difficult for law enforcement to detect driver distraction after a crash, this has made distracted driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues. In AAA’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index survey of driver attitudes and behaviors, more than half of teen drivers (52 percent) admitted reading a text message or email while driving in the previous 30 days and nearly 40 percent reported sending a text or email.

In research that involved putting dash cams in teenagers’ cars, the AAA Foundation found driver distraction in 58 percent of teen crashes, approximately four times as many as federal estimates.

But as bad as distracted driving among teen drivers may be, AAA says distraction has been a major contributing factor to 9 percent of fatal car accidents involving teens from 2013 to 2017. The other major contributors cited are:

  • Speeding – 28 percent
  • Drinking and driving – 17 percent.

Speeding significantly increases the severity of a crash and is a growing problem among teen drivers, the AAA Foundation says. In its annual survey, half (49.7 percent) of teen drivers reported speeding on a residential street in the previous 30 days and nearly 40 percent said they speed on the freeway.

In Indiana, the IU report says from 2013-2017, young drivers have a relatively higher incidence of speeding compared to older drivers. Among drivers involved in collisions, young male drivers are the most likely to have been speeding. In 2017, 11 percent of male drivers and 8 percent of female drivers in the 15- to 20-year old age group were speeding at the time of the collision.

And, despite the fact that teens cannot legally drink, one in sixteen drivers involved in fatal crashes during the summer tested positive for alcohol, the AAA Foundation says.

However, in Indiana, the rate of alcohol impairment among young drivers in collisions was much lower than for drivers in the 21-24 and 25-34 age groups. The impaired driving crash rate for drivers ages 15 to 20 was 7.4 per 10,000 licensed drivers, compared to 24.1 per 10,000 licensed drivers aged 21 to 24 years old.

Talk to Your Teenage Driver About Summer Driving Safety

“Parents have plenty to be concerned about as their teen hits the road this summer,” Jennifer Ryan, AAA director of state relations, said in the 100 Deadliest Days news release. “Teens are making deadly mistakes on the road. Parents are the best line of defense to keep everyone safe behind the wheel.”

AAA says:

  • Talk with teens early and often about abstaining from dangerous behavior behind the wheel, such as speeding, impairment and distracted driving.
  • Teach by example and minimize risky behavior when driving.
  • Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests further that parents should ensure their teen drivers follow the Indiana graduated driver’s license passenger restrictions, which requires no passengers for 180 days after the teen obtains a probationary driver’s license, unless:

  • A driver’s ed instructor, a licensed driver age 25 or older or your spouse is in the front passenger seat, or
  • The passenger is the teen’s child, step-child, sibling, step or half-sibling or spouse.

The CDC also suggests that you:

  • Make sure your teen is off the road by 9 or 10 p.m. for at least the first six months of licensed driving.
  • Practice nighttime driving with your teen when you think they are ready.
  • Require your teen to always wear a seat belt. A seat belt reduces the risk of dying or being badly injured in a crash by about half.
  • Don’t allow driver distractions like a cell phone, texting, eating, or playing with the radio.
  • Know your teen’s schedule so you can be sure he or she is well rested and not drowsy or fatigued when they get behind the wheel.
  • Make sure your teen knows to follow the speed limit and adjust their speed to match road conditions.
  • Remind your teen to maintain enough space behind the vehicle ahead to avoid a crash in case of a sudden stop.
  • Be a good role model: never drink and drive.