It’s a somber reality, but the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the 100 Deadliest Days for teen drivers. Every year, the deaths spike for these young drivers, so it pays for them and all drivers to note and add caution during summer driving.
Within those days, eight teens, on average, perish daily in vehicle accidents in the United States each year. The “100 Deadliest Days” awareness campaign is designed to forewarn parents and teenagers of the heightened risk and coerce them to avoid various dangerous behaviors. Yearly, it’s promoted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), insurance companies, police and other safety advocates.
Annually, with graduation parties, holidays and summer jobs, teens spend more time on the road from June to September than any other time of year. The mere exposure for these inexperienced drivers presents potential danger, but adding any other ill-advised activities increases the chance of mayhem drastically.
Parents need to set rules and enforce them. Kids may have heard the rules before, but sensible messages bear repeating. Basic regulations must include: no alcohol; mandatory seat belt use at all seating positions (low seat belt use is a primary reason adding to teen deaths); limited nighttime driving and restriction of number of teen passengers; and ban of electronic devices including cell phones while driving. While all of those situations bode poorly for driving success, that last one gains more prominence as an accident catalyst with each passing day.
Talking on cell phones while driving was bad enough, but some teens have replaced that tendency with the even-worse practice of texting. And although virtually every teen polled knows it’s dangerous, nearly 50 percent admit to texting from the road anyway and 75 percent say that their friends text and drive, according to a survey of teenagers commissioned by AT&T.
Peer pressure is a key contributor to the prevalence of this hazardous behavior, according to Andrea Brands, director of consumer safety and education for AT&T. Most teens expect to receive a response to their texts within five minutes. “That’s one of the reasons why they really feel like they need to be texting all the time,” Brands says.
Parents can battle the peer pressure by installing a mobile app on their teen’s cell phone that helps curb texting and driving. Wireless carriers now have apps that can send alerts to text senders — based on GPS detection — that the recipient is driving. Apps from independent developers are also widely available.
A great way for parents to help quell texting behind the wheel is by setting an example. Parents and adults in general are telling kids not to text and drive, but then they’re often texting while driving. In fact, 77 percent of the teens whom AT&T surveyed say that the same adults telling them not to text and drive do it “all the time,” according to the survey.
The “do as I say, not as I do” method of advice has proven to be a poor one. Regardless of what a parent may say, actions do “speak” louder than words, and parental actions are perceived as condoned behavior. Setting the right example for the kids is not only important, but proper driving habits improve safety for everyone — it’s certainly no safer for an adult to send a text while driving than it is for a teen.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.