Summer Is Here And So Are The 100 Deadliest Days
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The end of May marks the beginning of the 100 Deadliest Days, the summertime period during which accidents involving teen drivers spike at alarming rates. According to AAA, more than seven people per day across the country die during this period each year.
Teen driving accidents aren’t just limited to the summer months. Overall, these younger drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash than adults for each mile driven. But once the school year ends, teens have more free time to hit the road so they can see friends and enjoy extracurricular activities, creating more opportunities for accidents to occur.
What are the risks
Unfortunately, experts are bracing for what could be the deadliest 100 days yet in summer 2020. As COVID-19 social distancing measures are relaxed, teens may be more eager than ever to get on the road and make up for lost time spent in quarantine. For parents of young drivers, there’s never been a better time to have a conversation about safe driving habits.
Insurance and financial expert, Laura Adams says, “Due to the pandemic, fewer young people have summer jobs this year. With more leisure time, they could end up driving more and making the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day even riskier than usual.” She also advises that anyone with financial hardship contact their auto insurance company for options, or shop and compare policies to find a better deal.
Teen driving accidents are linked to certain behaviors and habits that are more common among young drivers. These include:
- Speeding: Close to half of teens admit to driving at least 10-15 miles per hour over the speed limit. Although speeding is common among drivers of all ages, it’s often cited as one of the leading causes of teen accidents. Young drivers should also be aware that certain weather conditions, like rain and fog, mean you need to reduce your speed to be safe.
- Distracted driving: Many distractions come up while driving, and teens aren’t always well-equipped to ignore these and focus on the road. Behaviors like texting, talking and using social media are becoming more prevalent and distracting teens behind the wheel. Cell phone usage alone reduces a teen’s focus on the road by 37%. To combat distracted driving, many states limit the number of passengers a young driver can have in their car. Unfortunately, distracted driving still plays a role in teen driving deaths.
- Impaired driving: Teens can’t legally drink alcohol in the United States, but drunk driving is still the cause of one in five fatal accidents among this age group. According to surveys, there is some good news: drinking and driving among high school students have been cut in half since 1991. But alcohol isn’t the only substance that causes impaired driving, and the legalization of marijuana may make this drug more accessible than ever to young people. Make sure your teen knows driving under the influence of any substance is illegal and highly dangerous.
- Driving without a seatbelt: Seatbelt safety is publicized in schools, but 17% of teens say they have driven without wearing one. Young drivers should know that seatbelts can mean the difference between life and death in an accident. Of the 37,000 people who died in accidents in 2017, nearly half were not wearing a seatbelt.
- Inexperience: At the end of the day, teens don’t have as much driving experience as adults. With fewer years of practice, behaviors like constantly scanning the road for potential hazards might not come as easily to younger drivers. These will come with time and practice, but until then, taking steps to reduce risk is crucial.
What to do after an accident
Teens and parents should take every measure possible to limit the chance of an accident. Even with these precautions, accidents can still happen.
Make sure your teen knows what steps to take in the event of an accident. These include:
- Assess the scene. The driver should examine themselves for injuries and check on anyone else in the vehicle.
- Get out of the road. In minor accidents, cars that are still drivable should be moved to the side of the road. If the car can’t move, those in the vehicle should move to a safe place off the road, such as a sidewalk or behind a guardrail. No matter where the vehicle is left, make sure the hazard lights are on to alert other drivers.
- Call 911. Immediately after an accident, anyone who is able should call emergency services. At the very minimum, police will be dispatched to create a report. An ambulance may be sent to evaluate and transport anyone with more serious injuries to the hospital.
- Contact a parent. If a teen is in an accident, it’s a good idea to notify a parent right away. It may be helpful for the parent to go to the scene and make sure everything is handled correctly. If any other minors were in the car while your teen was driving, contact their parents as well.
- Exchange contact information. Have your teen get the name, phone number and insurance information of the other driver involved in the accident. They should also record the other vehicle’s license plate, make, model and color.
- Take photos. Almost everyone has a smartphone with a camera. Take plenty of photos of the accident’s location and damage. Get as many angles as possible. This may help with insurance claims later.
- Notify the insurance company. Your teen may be insured under your family’s auto insurance policy. Give them the information to call the insurance company and begin the claims process. This can be done before leaving the scene to make sure all the necessary information is gathered. Unfortunately, teens are among the most expensive drivers to insure, and a claim for an accident is likely to make their rate go up even more.
Parent teen driver agreement
As a parent, making expectations clear to your teen driver is one of the best things you can do to influence their driving behavior. A written agreement is a way to solidify these expectations and keep them handy for review later. The CDC has a free printable agreement that outlines required driving behavior, any financial contributions young drivers are expected to make, restrictions for when and how they can drive and the penalties for failing to follow the agreement.
To reduce premiums while insuring your teen, Adams says, “If a student on your auto policy has good grades in high school or college, don’t miss out on the good student discount. Most insurers offer this to help offset the high cost of young drivers. You typically must submit a student’s grade information once or twice a year, but the potential savings in the range of 10% to 20% are well worth it.
Safe driving apps
There are many safe driving apps designed towards helping teens learn good driving behavior. As a parent, you may choose to make a safe driving app a condition of your teen’s driving privileges. Here are a few options to check out:
- RoadReady was designed to help parents and teens develop safe driving habits together. Among other features, the app allows you to track driving behavior, create goals and get driving improvement tips.
- MamaBear monitors your family’s safety both on and off the road. On top of GPS tracking and smart notifications, you’ll be informed whenever your teen is driving or riding in a car that is going faster than the speed limit.
- Life360 includes all the standout features of a safe driving app, such as crash detection, roadside assistance and a driving report. It also features location sharing and can notify you when your teen reaches their destination safely or if their phone’s battery is low.
Set an example
Teens learn driving behavior primarily from their parents. Having a young driver is an opportunity to examine your driving habits and make sure you’re a role model for safety.
To sum up
The 100 Deadliest Days is a great opportunity for you to start a conversation with your teen about safe driving habits. Preventable behaviors cause the majority of fatal teen driving accidents. Discussing the risks, setting expectations and creating conditions for ongoing driving privileges are a good way to start your teen on the path towards developing good long-term habits. Above all, remind your teen that safe driving alone isn’t enough. Making good choices also involves not getting in the car with another teen who is impaired or doesn’t drive safely. Let them know you’re always a phone call away any time they need to walk away from an unsafe situation.