Summer begins 100 deadliest days for teen drivers

Driver impairment is the leading contributor in most teen driving fatalities

By Dan Coon

Summer is fast approaching and teens will soon be out of school, car keys in hand, and looking forward to a little summertime fun. With a little more freedom and increased opportunities for teens to get behind the wheel, parents need to be extra vigilant as we enter the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.

The months between Memorial Day and Labor Day have the highest number of teen driving fatalities; from 2009 to 2014, there were 109 traffic deaths involving 16 to 20 year-old drivers in Washington.

Driver impairment is the leading contributing factor for teen drivers involved traffic fatalities in Washington. The next leading factors are speed and driver distraction.  During the summer months from 2009 to 2014:

  • Of the 109 fatalities involving drivers age 16 to 20, 62 fatalities involved impairment, 58 involved speeding and 31 involved distracted driving. Most fatalities had multiple contributing factors that caused these collisions.
  • Among these, 77 were male, more than double the 32 female driver fatalities. Leading factors in fatal crashes for male drivers were speed, impairment and then distraction. For female drivers, the leading factors were impairment, speed and then distraction.
  • The teen drivers themselves, in most cases, committed the critical errors leading to fatal crashes:  87% of all impaired drivers, 94% of all speeding drivers, 87% of all distracted drivers.

It’s not hard to understand why teens face greater driving risks. Their lack of driving experience can make them underestimate dangerous situations. Now, combine the lack of driving experience with a teen driver who might be impaired, speeding or distracted, and you have a recipe for disaster.

In preparing for the 100 deadliest days, AAA encourages parents to talk with their teens about the dangers of driving under the influence, speeding and distracted driving. Parents can:

  • Start the summer off with a parent-teen driving agreement to clearly define your teen’s driving responsibilities, privileges and consequences and set the stage for a safe summer.
  • Take the time to talk with your teen about the dangers of driving impaired, or riding with a driver who is. Be sure to mention all the other risks involved with underage drinking and drug use.

The summer months are a time for teens to have more freedom, make some money at a summer job or just relax and hang out with friends and family. Parents, help your teens stay on track and make safe decisions when they’re behind the wheel.

 Dan Coon is a member of the Washington Healthy Youth Coalition, and a Traffic Safety Programs Manager with AAA Washington.  He promotes policies and education about traffic safety issues.