SCHOOL NEWS

The 100 Deadliest Days for Teens

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service Urges Parents to Talk to Teens About Safe Driving. 

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Now that school is out and summer is officially underway, many parents are seeing their teens doing more driving. Unfortunately, most parents are not aware that Memorial Day kicks off what is called “The 100 Deadliest Days for Teens” when it comes to teen vehicle crashes. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day is a time when there is an increase in fatal crashes involving teens. A study done by the foundation in 2017 showed that teens are three-times more likely than adults to be involved in fatal crashes.

Over the summer months the mixture of inexperienced drivers and more opportunities to be driving is a deadly combination. Parents have more influence over their teens than they may think. In fact, leading experts believe parents play a key role in preventing teen car crashes and deaths. Teens with parents who set rules, monitor their driving, and are supportive are half as likely to crash and twice as likely to use seat belts as teens with less involved parents. Parents should get involved with their teens and stay involved through their teen driving years to make sure they follow good driving habits and to set good examples with their own driving behavior. Distractions, including other teens in the vehicle, speeding, nighttime driving, and lack of seat belt use are all factors that play a role in fatal teen crashes. Most of these are regulated by the Graduated Driver License Law, which parents should become familiar in order to protect teen drivers in the beginning stages of their driving.

The Texas Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law is designed to prevent cell phone use, limit the number of teen passengers that can legally ride with a novice driver, and also limit nighttime driving. The law provides parents with the controls to help keep their teen drivers safe. Many parents, however, are not aware of the provisions of this law — which is in force while the teen has a learner’s permit, as well as a provisional license. 

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that distracted driving among teens was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. This is much higher than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) previous estimate that distraction is involved in 14 percent of teen crashes. While cell phone use is an obvious danger for teen drivers, surprisingly the AAA Foundation study showed that the leading distraction for the teens was not cell phone use, but interacting with other passengers in the vehicle. Cell phone use came in as the second most common distraction. Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teens in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family & Community Health Educator, Chelsea Stevens, of Williamson County, reminds parents to talk to their teens about safe driving and to follow these guidelines from the NHTSA.

The NHTSA reminds parents to:

  • Learn about the GDL law and be familiar with the restrictions placed on your teen's license
  • Require seat belt use always
  • Talk to your teen about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Remind them that it is illegal to drink under the age of 21, and it is illegal — and deadly — to drink and drive. If a teen is under 21, his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) should always be at .00, not just under .08, which is the legal limit for drivers over age 21.
  • Be a good role model. Remember that your child looks to you as a driver, so practice safe driving yourself. Set aside time to take your teen on practice driving sessions. It can be a great way to spend time together and to allow your teen to improve some basic driving skills. Your teen's learning starts at home.
  • Don't rely solely on a driver's education class to teach your teen to drive. Remember that driver's education should be used as just part of a GDL system.

Bottom line is that as a parent you need to know the dangers that teen driving poses. You have more influence on your teen than you may think. Be a good example and get involved in their driving habits from the beginning, and stay involved for the duration of their teen years.

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