Parents beware: Teens entering 100 deadliest days of summer

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Teens drivers love hitting the road instead of the books during their summer vacation. But it's important for young drivers to remember: Too much summer relaxation can become a fatal distraction when they're behind the wheel.

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the "100 Deadliest Days" for teen drivers, a time when the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 15 percent compared to the rest of the year.

"Teen crashes spike during the summer months because teens are out of school and spend more time on the road," said Michelle Donati, communications manager for AAA Arizona. "Over the past five years, more than 1,600 people were killed in crashes involving inexperienced teen drivers during the 100 Deadliest Days."

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently analyzed crash rates per mile driven for all drivers and found that for every mile on the road, drivers ages 16-17 years old are: 

  •     3.9 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a crash
  •     2.6 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a fatal crash
  •     4.5 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a crash
  •     3.2 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a fatal crash

The number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes increased more than 10 percent from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 2015 crash data, the latest data available. To reverse this trend, AAA urges parents to get involved and talk to their teens about the dangers of risky behavior behind the wheel.

Three factors that commonly result in deadly crashes for teen drivers are:

  1. Distraction: Distraction plays a role in nearly 6 out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports. The top distractions for teens include talking to other passengers in the vehicle and interacting with a smart phone.
  2. Not Buckling Up: In 2015, the latest data available, 60 percent of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt. Teens who buckle up significantly reduce their risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash.
  3. Speeding: Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. A recent AAA survey of driving instructors found that speeding is one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive.

"Parents are the front line of defense for keeping our roads safer this summer," Donati said. "It all starts with educating teens about safety on the road and modeling good behavior."

Earlier this year, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill that prohibits Arizona teens from using wireless communication devices, like cell phones, while operating a vehicle during the permit and first six months of the Graduated Driver License Law phases. Although the law doesn't take effect until next summer, it's never too early to start practicing safe habits. 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.

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