In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Americans are again being reminded to “be vigilant.”
The same advice could be offered to teen drivers as we head toward the summer months, when teen car crashes tend to spike.
It begins with prom and graduation season (celebration time) and continues with summer vacation. Celebrations sometimes involve alcohol, but they frequently involve groups of friends, which presents a subtle risk. That’s because, statistically, when teen passengers ride with a teen driver, the crash rate climbs. And it climbs higher with each added passenger.
The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that in 2011, 59% of teen-passenger deaths happened in cars driven by another teen. That’s been a steady pattern over the years.
Why? Teen drivers – especially newly licensed drivers – are inexperienced and still developing their driving skills. Teen passengers can be particularly distracting, and research shows they encourage risk-taking. Driving at night and in bad weather only worsens the odds. And inexplicably, most teens who die in crashes aren’t wearing their safety belts. Go figure.
(Incidentally, if you’re curious about seat-belt use in general, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports that the county with the highest use in 2011 was Cowlitz at 99.09%, while Klickitat had the lowest at 92.09%. In Oregon car crashes with injuries, the county with the highest safety-restraint use was Yamhill at 96.20%, while Wallowa had the lowest at 68.75%.)
IIHS research reveals when most teen fatalities occur:
- July and August had the most deaths in 2011, along with October.
- 53% of deaths occurred on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
- The deadliest time of day for teen drivers is 9 p.m. – 3 a.m.
This data speaks for itself, so I’ll refrain from wagging my finger and wailing “danger!” Teens are smart enough to recognize cause and effect. The key is, keep safety in mind as summer approaches. Be vigilant behind the wheel.