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Thursday, June 13, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

AAA reveals key deadly behaviors for teen drivers as ‘100 deadliest days’ begin

Over the past five years, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers during the 100 Deadliest Days, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the number of crash fatalities involving a teen driver historically rise.

New crash data from 2013-2017 reveals major factors contributing to fatal teen crashes during the summer driving period include:

·Speeding (28 percent)

·Impaired driving (17 percent)

·Distraction (9 percent)

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading causes of death for teenagers every year, and their risk increases every summer,” says Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central. “Efforts to improve the skills of teen drivers help to keep all drivers safe, so parents should monitor the driving behaviors of their children.”

AAA Foundation 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. Crashes for teen drivers increase significantly during the summer because teens are out of school and driving more. Over the past five years during the “100 Deadliest Days”:

An average of almost 700 people died each year in crashes involving teen drivers.

The average number of deaths from crashes involving teen drivers ages 15-18 was 17 percent higher per day compared to other days of the year.

Reckless behavior like drinking and driving, speeding and distraction are contributing to the alarming number of crash deaths involving teen drivers each summer.

Speeding significantly increases the severity of a crash and is a growing problem among teen drivers. In the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, half (49.7 percent) of teen drivers reported speeding on a residential street in the past 30 days and nearly 40 percent say they sped on the freeway.

Despite the fact that teens cannot legally consume alcohol, one in six teen drivers involved in fatal crashes during the summer tested positive for alcohol.

More than half of teen drivers (52 percent) in the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Culture Safety Index report reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days and nearly 40 percent report sending a text or email. Though the new crash data indicate distraction was a factor in nine percent of teen-related fatal crashes, that may not tell the whole story. Additional AAA Foundation research using in-vehicle dash-cam videos of teen driver crashes found distraction was involved in 58 percent of teen crashes, approximately four times as many as federal estimates.

“Although distraction appears to account for a small official percentage of crash factors, it is a truly underreported occurrence,” notes Podguski. “It is difficult for law enforcement to detect distraction following a crash, and often times offenders aren’t forthcoming about using their phone while driving.”

AAA East Central has launched a campaign to help bring awareness to the dangers of distracted driving. The “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated” campaign aims to help make distracted driving socially unacceptable, much like driving impaired. Given that the results can be equally as deadly, teen drivers should consider them equally as dangerous.

·Parents play a vital role in keeping their teens safe. AAA encourages parents to:

·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.

TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great 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. 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.

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Editor’s note: 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. AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 79 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.