Beware — we are in the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers.
The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day has seen a 43 percent jump in vehicle crashes and fatalities by teen drivers, according to a recent study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Based on the federal government’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), an average of 220 teen drivers and teen passengers died in traffic crashes nationwide during each of the summer months in 2013.
In Texas last year, almost 300 teen drivers and passengers (ages 15-20) died as a result of traffic crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Motor-vehicle accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for teens, the age group with the highest risk of crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is some good news in the AAA study. In the last 20 years, fatal and nonfatal injury crashes involving teen drivers dropped by around half, according to AAA.
That’s better than all fatal and nonfatal crashes in the U.S., which have fallen 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Still teen fatalities and crashes are horrific experiences for families. And the total number of crashes involving teen drivers across the nation is still huge. In 2013 alone, 371,645 people were injured and 2,927 killed in crashes that involved a teen driver, according to AAA.
Fortunately, there are many ways to beat the statistics with practical tips, online tools and apps to make sure teens practice safe driving habits.
The first thing to do as a parent is insist that your teen-age drivers wear seat belts.
Research shows that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half, according to the CDC. Of the Texas teen vehicle fatalities, almost half were not wearing seat belts, the agency reports.
Parents should also stress to their teens not to drink and drive. The CDC says this problem has dropped by 54 percent since 1991, but that one in 10 high school teens still drink and drive. And young drivers are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent than when they have not been drinking, the CDC reports. Alcohol is a factor in 13 percent of teen crashes.
To help parents and teens be safer drivers, try AAA’s website www.TeenDrivingAAA.com, which has tools like the StartSmart program to help parents become effective in-car coaches. The website also has a four-page parent-teen driving agreement catered to each state’s laws, such as Texas’ graduated driver’s license requirements. The agreement helps parents discuss the many potential hazards of driving with teens and make them aware of Texas laws.
Another good website for Texans is www.t-drivers.com, which offers a peer-to-peer program for teens that focuses on traffic safety and addresses the major risks for this age group. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) provides the science, guidance and project resources for the program, which is available to junior highs, high schools and youth groups in Texas.
But anyone can use the website, which includes information on the major problems for teen drivers and offers solutions.
Included in the website is a list of free phone apps to help parents monitor their teen’s driving. Among the apps:
▪ Road Ready, sponsored by Ford, monitors teens during the first phase of driving while they are getting their learner’s permit and practicing to take tests for their licenses. The app, available at Apple’s App store, allows parents to track their driving experience into an online log using GPS data and a connection to an Internet source.
▪ Safe Driver. Also for the iPhone, this app alerts parents via text or email when the teen goes above the speed limit, using Google maps to find the speed limits in an area. Parents also can see the teen’s location.
▪ Text Arrest. An app for Android phones will shut down a teen’s phone when they are in a moving vehicle.
▪ Sprint Drive First. An app for Sprint customers causes calls to be sent directly to voicemail and incoming texts to receive an auto-reply when in a vehicle going 10 mph or more.
▪ AT&T DriveMode. An app for AT&T customers on BlackBerry and Android phones. With a tap on the phone to enable, the phone sends an “unavailable” reply to incoming texts and emails, while calls are sent to voicemail. It also silences tones for incoming texts, emails or calls and blocks Web browsing or outgoing calls.
So take action now to avoid becoming a statistic during the 100 deadliest days.
Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net