The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day have been labeled “The 100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers. The danger begins with proms and graduation parties, but the worry for parents will not end there. Summer vacation means kids driving to their jobs, to friends’ houses, to get-togethers, and more, day and night.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that car accidents are the leading cause of death for youth in America. An average of 399 teens die in traffic accidents during each of the summer months – May through August – compared to an average of 346 deaths per month during non-summer months, according to AAA.
Legislation in Action
The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (STAND UP) was introduced to the U.S. House and Senate in the spring of 2011. This legislation would establish minimum federal requirements for state Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) laws in order to reduce new-driver crash risk.
Michigan’s new GDL law requires that teenage drivers with a Level 2 license now must comply with certain driving restrictions. Teens are not allowed to have more than one passenger under the age of 21 in a car they are operating – unless the passenger is a member of the driver’s immediate family, or the driver is traveling to or from a school or school-sanctioned event. Driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. is prohibited unless the teen is traveling to or from their job or traveling with a parent or licensed adult over the age of 21.
Cautions for Your Teen Driver
Though it can be incredibly convenient for parents to have teens in the house who can now get themselves (and younger siblings) from place to place, there are inherent dangers that come with teen driving. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning names speeding, careless driving, reckless driving, and failing to yield as the most hazardous actions that contribute to fatal auto accidents involving teen drivers. And, sadly, nighttime fatal crash rates for 16-year-old drivers are nearly double that of daytime crash rates.
Parents can help protect their teens by talking about safety and making smart driving choices, and by setting strict ground rules about car usage. Forbid phone calls or texting while driving – there is no reason for anyone (teen or otherwise) to be sending or receiving text messages while driving a vehicle. Require the use of seat belts at all times. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), low seat belt use is one of the main reasons teen driver and passenger fatality and injury rates remain so high. And, above all, discuss alcohol and that, under no condition, should your teen drive while intoxicated or get in a vehicle with another driver who has been drinking.