For teenagers, summer months mean freedom from schoolyear responsibilities. But summer is also the most dangerous time of the year for teen drivers. During the “100 deadliest days” between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the risk of fatal teen crashes increases nearly 20 percent.
While cars and roadways have generally gotten safer over the years, teenage drivers have not. Teens are significantly overrepresented in Ohio crashes, especially in summertime. Enforcing safe driving habits for young drivers is a responsibility that falls largely on parents. By educating teens about driving hazards and modeling good behavior, parents can help to keep roads safe this summer. And if things don’t go smoothly behind the wheel for you or your teen driver, trust Graham & Graham’s Ohio personal injury lawyers to assist with the claims process.
Teens Cause Disproportionate Number of Ohio Car Accidents
In recent years, automakers have added improved safety features to vehicles, such as automatic braking and blind spot warning systems. These feature partially explain why traffic-related fatalities have decreased overall by around 25 percent over the past decade.
Teenage drivers, however, buck this trend. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), fatal teen crashes are on the rise. Summer months are particularly dangerous, as teen drivers are more likely to die in a crash over the twelve weeks of summer than any other time of the year, reports the Dayton Daily News. Overall, 16 and 17 year old drivers are three times more likely than adult drivers to be involved in a deadly crash. The risk for fatal teen crashes increases 17 percent during the “100 deadliest days,” adds the Daily News.
Statistics cited in the Daily News show that teenagers represent about five percent of Ohio drivers, but account for more than 15 percent of Ohio crashes. Over the last five years, drivers 17 and under have caused more than 67,000 crashes in Ohio.
The reasons for teen crashes are both familiar and novel. They include distraction—which plays a role in more than half of teen crashes—as well as lack of seatbelt use, speeding, and alcohol/drug use.
“Teens are driving with less intention in the summer,” Kara Hitchens, an AAA spokeswoman, told the Dayton Daily News. “They aren’t driving to school or to work as much. They have more free time and may drive more recklessly. There are so many things they can be distracted with in the car, whether that be an entertainment center, ordering something, or their cellphones.”
How to Protect Your Teen Drivers
Parents may feel helpless when their newly-licensed teenagers take to the roads, but experts agree on a number of steps to help parents improve teen driving skills, including the following:
- Eliminate distractions: Teens and their smartphones are virtually inseparable. That’s a huge problem behind the wheel, where distraction plays a role in around 6 out of 10 teen crashes. Because parents want to keep in touch with their kids when they’re out, and due to prevalent use of navigation apps such as Google Maps, taking your teen’s device away may not be practical. Instead, consider using safe-driving apps that have “do not disturb” modes. If device usage while driving seems unavoidable, research suggests the safest place for a phone is in a dock, at eye level, on the dashboard, since the driver can still keep their eyes on the road.
- Restrict passengers: Devices aren’t the only distraction that teenage drivers face. Researcher Nichole Morris told the New York Times that, “Adding one nonfamily passenger to a teenager’s car increase the rate of crashes by 44 percent.” The risk doubles with a second passenger and quadruples with three or more, and is highest when boys ride with other boys. Dr. Morris recommends a “non-familiar passenger restriction” of at least six months, similar to graduated license programs.
- Extra training: Inexperience is one of the biggest reasons for teens’ increased crash risk. Lack of experience can be countered by teen-specific driver training, such as the free clinic offered recently in Central Ohio. Parents can also take a more hands-on approach. Dr. Morris cites research showing that the more a parent is involved when their teen is learning to drive, the lower their chances are for a crash.
- Put it in writing: Driving is a privilege—not a right. Consider setting and enforcing expectations for your teenage driver with a parent-teen driving agreement.
Serving Southeast Ohio Families Since 1923
As parents, we understand the anxiety that accompanies having a new teen driver. As lawyers, we know how to successfully handle your case when accidents happen.
Graham & Graham helps injured individuals and their families receive everything they need to get well again as soon as possible. To discuss a car accident case, free of charge, call 1-800-621-8585 or contact us online.