Navigating the 100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers

As the summer season begins and the allure of freedom beckons, highways and byways transform into avenues of adventure for many teens. However, behind the wheel lies a hidden danger: the “100 deadliest days of driving.”

This period, spanning from Memorial Day to Labor Day, witnesses a disturbing surge in road fatalities, with teen drivers particularly vulnerable.

100 Deadliest Days Dangerous for Teens

Traffic traditionally increases during the summer months. Teens are out of school, and adults are more likely to take vacations in the nice weather. The National Safety Council (NSC) notes that in 2022, miles traveled were lowest in January and February and peaked in August, with traffic deaths remaining elevated from May through October.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens aged 15 to 18 years old, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2021, there were 2,116 young drivers who died in traffic crashes, which was an 11 percent increase from the 1,899 who died in 2020.

The risk rises during the 100 deadliest days, as young, inexperienced drivers spend more time on the road with their friends. Nearly half of teen driver-related deaths occur during this time. It’s not always the driver who is killed in traffic crashes, but it can be their passengers or anyone else they encounter on the road.

Ohio Valley Patrols recently conducted their Operation CARE event to focus on traffic safety and crash reduction over the summer period. Statistics show that speeding-related crashes in the state are declining, but motor vehicle fatalities are increasing.

Teens More Likely to Drive Distracted

The AAA emphasizes that distractions play a significant role in teen-involved crashes, with factors like texting, social media use, and interacting with passengers posing grave threats to safety. In one of their studies, researchers found that nearly 60 percent of teen crashes involved distractions behind the wheel.

The top three distractions for teens in the moments leading up to a crash included:

  1. Talking or attending to other passengers in the vehicle
  2. Talking, texting, or operating a cell phone
  3. Attending to or looking at something inside the vehicle

Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that though teens may begin their driving habits with caution, as the months behind the wheel pass, “they begin to multi-task at higher frequency rates…,” greatly increasing their risk of crashes.

Other common risk factors for teen drivers included speeding in general, and not wearing a seat belt.

How Parents Can Help Teens Become Safe Drivers

Parents play a vital role in helping their teens navigate the road safely. The AAA suggests the following tips:

  1. Education is Key: Engage in open and ongoing discussions with your teen about the dangers of reckless and distracted driving. Emphasize the importance of safety and remind them often about wearing seatbelts, staying focused, and complying with speed limits. Have your teen complete a comprehensive driver education course if possible.
  2. Lead by Example: Model safe driving behaviors, as teens often mimic the actions of those they look up to. These include always wearing your seat belt, obeying traffic laws, watching your speed, and avoiding distractions.
  3. Establish Ground Rules: Implement clear rules for teen drivers, such as curfews, passenger restrictions, and zero-tolerance policies for alcohol and drug use while driving. Establish a parent-teen driving agreement such as the one available here.
  4. Limit Distractions: Encourage teens to stow away their phones while driving and to focus solely on the road. Consider using apps or features that block incoming notifications while driving.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect: Encourage teens to log ample practice hours behind the wheel in various conditions and environments before venturing out on their own.