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Summer safety

Statistics reflect increased traffic deaths during the summer months.  The heightened peril applies to all drivers, but especially those in their teens.  For those drivers, crashes typically jump nearly 20 percent over the norm during June, July and August.

One factor driving the spike is that teens simply drive more during the summer.  Besides that, according to the National Safety Council, the trips are more recreational than purposeful.  For example, instead of driving to school and back, teens are heading to lakes, rivers, and venturing on unfamiliar roads.  They are more likely to be distracted during such trips.

Another causal factor in the crash uptick is that teens are driving more with friends in the car through the summer.  While various driving distractions are potentially deadly, such as talking or texting on cell phones, they usually last only for seconds at a time.  Passengers are a distraction the entire time a teen is driving, and increase their chance of having a fatal crash by at least 44 percent, per National Safety Council research.

Whereas parents may recognize the risks of cell phone use, they often don’t understand the risks of passengers in their teens’ cars.  A majority of states have laws regulating passengers riding in cars with new drivers.  Some do not allow any passengers for six months or a year after getting a license.  In Washington, no passengers under 20 years old are allowed, except family members, for the first six months.  For the second six months, up to three teen passengers may ride.  I find that both parents and law enforcement regularly fail to enforce those requirements.

Based on statistics, parents of kids licensed less than one year should think very carefully about the conditions or situations that they are allowed to carry any passengers.

Speeding and drinking are also part of elevated teen crashes in summer months.  Parents and teens generally recognize those dangers and the importance of avoiding them while driving, but tragically, those factors remain in far too many traffic deaths.

A contributing crash factor for teens that is not always recognized is the increased danger they face while driving at night.  Again, statistical evidence has prompted restrictions for new drivers in many states when it comes to night driving.  In Washington state, teens are not legally allowed to drive between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or licensed driver at least 25 years old.

The impetus for this curfew is more about dark driving than a social curfew, so parents should monitor driving by their newly licensed teens that takes place during any hours of darkness.

The best thing for parents to do is give teens the best knowledge they have regarding driving and the inherent dangers of inexperience.  Speeding, drinking, inattentiveness due to passengers or phone use, and night driving are important situations to avoid, but novice drivers are also prone to other mistakes like failing to yield or running stop signs.

Besides preaching, leading by example is an effective way to influence teen drivers.  If they see their parents phone texting, they will likely do the same.  Similarly, if they see parents speeding or driving while drinking, they will tend to follow.

Apple will soon release a no texting while driving feature in iOS 11 — let’s beat them to it with a voluntary ban.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at

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