Summer is one of the most dangerous times of year on U.S. roads – so much so that the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day have become known as the “100 Deadliest Days”. During this time of year, auto accidents and traffic fatalities spike sharply.
With millions of Americans expected to hit the road for much-needed getaways in the coming weeks and months, getting through the first post-pandemic summer safely will require all motorists, and especially teens, to know the risks and how to manage them.
Summer Months Can Be Deadly for Teen Drivers
While all drivers face increased crash risks in summer, the “100 Deadliest Days” are especially concerning for younger motorists. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:
- Over 8,300 people died in crashes involving teen drivers between 2008 and 2018 during the 100 Deadliest Days – that’s more than 7 people a day each summer.
- For every mile driven, teen drivers ages 16-17 are 3x more likely than adults to be involved in a deadly crash.
- 72% of teen drivers ages 16-18 admit to regularly engaging in risky driving behaviors such as speeding, texting, aggressive driving, and driving while fatigued.
Summer is a dangerous time for teens, but 2021 could be the perfect storm for the most dangerous yet. That’s because the combination of school break, curtailed activities, summer job cancellations, and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions may cause more teens to hit the road.
If you have a teen driver, you can help keep them and others safer this summer by taking an active role in their driving. Experts encourage parents to:
- Talk with teens early and often about driving safety and the importance of abstaining from risky behaviors like texting, speeding, or driving under the influence.
- Set a good example for your teen by practicing safe driving habits in your own vehicle, including always wearing a seat belt, avoiding cell phone use, using turn signals, and watching your speed.
- Create a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers, such as prohibiting them from riding with teen drivers or transporting other teens when they are still learning to drive.
- Conduct at least 50 hours of supervised practice driving with teens. You can use the AAA Parent Coaching Guide for resources to help coach your new driver during COVID-19 and beyond and help them build on their formal behind-the-wheel training.
There may never be a “good” time of year when it comes to teen motorists, but the risks of summer driving are indeed pronounced for younger drivers. While kids deserve to have some fun after losing out on so much during the pandemic, they also need to understand that being a motorist means taking steps to ensure a safe ride every time.
Other Summer Driving Risks
Many factors contribute to the spike in fatal car accidents during summer. Some of these include:
1. More Traffic
Whether it’s a barbecue down the block or an interstate road trip, Americans tend to log more miles during the summer than any other time of year. According to AAA Travel, the spike may be even more dramatic this year – during the Memorial Day weekend alone, over 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home. That’s a 60% increase from the 23 million people last year.
Unfortunately, more traffic means more accidents, including collisions involving motorcycles, bicycles, RVs, trailers, boats, and other towed cargo. If you’re hitting the road this summer, plan ahead to explore the best routes, identify any detours or construction zones, and avoid the heaviest congestion.
2. More Out-of-Towners
Tourists and out-of-town motorists significantly increase crash risks. As data shows, out-of-town drivers who aren’t familiar with local roads, traffic laws, or the local landscape are more likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviors, including:
- Sudden turns or lane changes
- Rubber-necking or sightseeing
- Distracted driving (texting, using GPS, etc.)
- Unexpected slowing or sudden stops
If you live in a popular destination like New York City or will be visiting an area with lots of out-of-towners, it’s wise to keep an eye out for distracted pedestrians, follow at a safe distance, and remain vigilant behind the wheel.
3. Impaired Driving
Because summer is synonymous with celebrations, there’s a statistical uptick in drugged and drunk driving, especially during major holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July (which consistently ranks atop the list), and Labor Day.
Whether you’re on vacation, at a friend’s, or attending an event, it’s important to drink responsibly or plan ahead for a sober ride. There are plenty of alternatives to getting behind the wheel impaired.
4. Driver Fatigue
Studies have shown that missing out on sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol. Even losing just a few hours of sleep can make a person less alert and affect their coordination, judgement, and reaction time. This is called cognitive impairment.
Because it’s easy to feel fatigued when you’re on the go or in the heat, it’s important to prioritize a restful night’s sleep. For longer trips, give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination and take turns with a co-pilot so there’s always a well-rested driver. If you start feeling tired, pull over to take a break, catch a quick nap, and grab a caffeinated drink. For those embarking on longer drives and road trips, take turns driving to ensure there’s always a well-rested person behind the wheel.
5. Tire Blowouts and Breakdowns
Driving long distances or in the heat can take its toll on our vehicles and our bodies.
Because risks for tire blowouts, breakdowns, and heat exhaustion can increase under these conditions, keep up-to-date with suggested maintenance and always inspect your vehicle and tires before setting out. If you’re taking a longer trip, have your vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic and be sure to pack extra water and supplies in case of an emergency.
Fighting for Accident Victims for Over 40 years
The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., wishes everyone a safe and happy summer! As a firm that’s fought for injured victims across NYC since 1980, we know that even the most safety-minded motorists can suffer harm when other people are negligent. If you or someone you love should need legal guidance after a motor vehicle accident, we’re available 24/7 to help.