Teens and summer driving

July 3, 2014 

By Sgt. Collin Stosberg

Summer is in full swing.

School is out, and trips to the lake, hanging out with friends, summer jobs, and camps, all place more teen drivers on Missouri’s roadways.

This is why this time of the year is the most deadly for the teenage driver. In fact, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2012, 1,000 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers and more than 550 of those killed were teens.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., and teens crash at three times the rate of more experienced drivers. Possible reasons for the spike in these crashes during the summer months include:

Summer driving tends to be more recreational and not as purposeful, such as driving to see friends or to the lake and traveling on roads they haven't driven before, rather than driving to school or work. Parents are encouraged to limit teens’ driving to essential trips and establish guidelines for their child.

Teens could be carrying friends more frequently and passengers increase the risk of a fatal crash involving a teen driver by at least 44 percent. Missouri's Graduated Driver License law requires that all first-time drivers between 15 and 18 years old complete a period of driving with a licensed driver (instruction permit), and restricted driving (intermediate license), before getting a full driver license.

Teens may stay out later at night, when the crash risk is higher. According to AAA research, a teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles when driving at night and more than half of nighttime crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight.

With warmer weather and clearer conditions, teens may be tempted to speed.

Teens may be more easily distracted while driving. Inattention is the leading cause of all traffic crashes in Missouri. The popularity of mobile devices has had some dangerous consequences, which are linked to the significant increase of distracted driving traffic crashes. Missouri state law requires that no person 21 years of age or younger operating a moving motor vehicle upon the highways shall, by means of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device, send, read, or write a text message or electronic message.

Teens are less likely to wear their seat belt. On average, you’ll be in a traffic crash every 10 years, and you have a one in 50 chance of being killed. No matter how safely you drive, you can’t control other drivers. Seat belts are your best protection against drivers who are careless or have been drinking. Using lap/shoulder belts reduces your chances of being killed or seriously injured in a crash 45-50 percent.

More teenage drivers are on the roads with less supervision. During the summer months, teens are more care free and excited to have the freedom to drive around, so it’s imperative that parents help keep safety foremost in their children’s minds.

Summer is an especially deadly season for the teenage driver. However, it can also offer the perfect opportunity for teens to learn how to drive safer and can be the best time for new teen drivers to gain experience with their parent, who can share their wisdom from many years of driving.

Sgt. Collin Stosberg is the public information and education officer for Troop A of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

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