- Life360 reports that 74% of car drives by teens in 2020 were done while distracted.
- In 2018, 2,121 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver.
- Speeding was responsible for 43% of the 4,930 roadway deaths involving teen drivers and their passengers between 2015 and 2019.
Summer is the season of getting things done. With restaurants, bars, and sporting events starting again, many will be eager to leave their homes, increasing the risk of driving during the summer.
However, inexperienced teenage drivers may not be used to the dangers of driving during the summer or could engage in dangerous driving habits themselves. A summer driving safety guide can help parents talk to their teenage drivers about how to drive safely during the warmer months and mitigate the risks.
The Risks of Summer Driving for Teenagers
Because more people are traveling during the summer months, it is not surprising to find more accidents and DUIs occur during this time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 9,050 fatal motor vehicle crashes between June and August of 2018. Furthermore, 2,121 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver (15 to 18 years old) in 2018.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of alcohol-related crashes also increases during the summer months. During Memorial Day weekend in 2018, 37% of fatal crashes were due to alcohol impairment.
Moreover, the National Safety Council states 40% of traffic-related fatalities resulting from alcohol impairments happened during the Fourth of July holiday. It is the holiday with the most cases of drunk driving-related fatalities each year.
Summer is also when more people drive long distances to visit family, go on road trips, and more. During the summer of 2019, AAA reported 43 million drivers hit the roads. With many adults and teens receiving COVID-19 vaccines nationwide, the smart bet is to assume more people will drive this summer.
Parents can mitigate these risks of their teens driving during the summer by helping them develop their skills behind the wheel, even after they get their license.
“Teaching your teenager to fine-tune his or her driving skills by practicing on progressively harder roads, from quiet streets to busy highways, at night and in rain,” John Peterson, editor of Safe Drive Gear recommends. In turn, they become an all-around better driver, more capable of handling varied climate changes, and used to more challenging road conditions.
2021 Teen Summer Driving Trends
While the pandemic created less of an incentive for teen drivers to take to the road in 2020, it can be argued that 2021 will be much different. Restaurants, concerts, and movie theaters are opening back up, creating more opportunities to drive during the summer months.
Moreover, teens are eager to socialize. For some, their only contact with friends during the pandemic has been through digital means — and they’re burnt out on talking to friends on screens.
With this renewed freedom and increased socializing come some risks. Having this freedom could result in more opportunities for driving while using their phone for music or talking to passengers in the car. In fact, Life360, an app that helps parents monitor their teen’s driving behavior, found that 74% of teenager drives were done while distracted.
Social media trends have also played a role in driving distracted. Car-related TikTok challenges may pressure teens into driving erratically to directions in “Cha-Cha Slide” by DJ Casper or jumping out of the passenger seat to dance alongside a moving car to a Drake song.
Noticing trending challenges like these is an opportunity for parents to establish a dialogue with their teens about the dangers of participating in social media trends when behind the wheel.
Furthermore, with more socializing, this summer comes more opportunities for impaired driving, including driving while tired and drowsy.
“With less driving experience, it can be difficult to recognize the warning signs and consequences of drowsy driving,” says Tisha Ferraro of Life360. “Encourage your teen to take routine breaks on long drives so that they are more likely to remain alert on the road. Help them choose rest stops ahead of time, and decide how long driving stretches should last.”
Teen Driving Safety Tips
To help your teen establish a foundation of safe driving behaviors, here are some safety tips to employ:
- Eliminate distracted driving: Because teens do not have the experience to have full situational awareness, they must eliminate all distractions by having their phone on a do not disturb setting. Doing this prevents them from glancing down at their phones, so their sole focus is on the road.
- Avoid drowsy driving: Teenagers are inexperienced drivers, and getting behind the wheel while tired or drowsy can increase their risk of getting into an accident. It’s estimated that about 100,000 police-reported crashes are a result of driving while drowsy each year.
- Be lenient with curfews: When setting a curfew, instead of setting a time when they should be home, set the time for when they should leave. Stress to them the importance of giving a call before they leave, so even if they are running a little late, they do not have to rush to get home.
- Have them leave early: Stress the importance of leaving a few minutes early for curfew, work, or school. When rushed, teens might speed, making them more susceptible to accidents.
- Talk about road rage: have conversations about positively reacting when someone else displays aggressive driving behaviors. Stress the importance of refraining from engaging with the other driver. Instead, take a few deep breaths, give a wide berth (if possible), and allow the driver to move on. Varda Meyers Epstein, a parenting expert with Kars4Kids, notes, “Teenage hormones cause teens to exhibit unpredictable behavior, including recklessness, wild emotional swings, and unwarranted aggression.”
- Don’t be a distraction: If you know your teen is driving, do not message or call them until you know they are out of the car unless it is an emergency.
- Set clear expectations: Be upfront with your expectations with your teen. When doing so, Epstein notes, “Parents should consider that fear-based messaging isn’t very effective, and it’s better to speak to your teen about the positive benefits of driving safely.”
How Driving Incidents Affect Teen’s Auto Insurance
Another part of educating teen drivers is explaining how auto insurance works. Parents can do this by reviewing their teen’s auto insurance policy with them. Show them how much the auto insurance premium is and what it covers relative to property damages, medical expenses, how deductibles work, and more. Parents can also use this opportunity to show their teens how to shop for the best auto insurance policies.
It is also an excellent time to discuss how unsafe driving behaviors can lead to accidents and traffic citations, which results in insurance premium increases and other negative consequences.
According to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding was responsible for 43% of the 4,930 roadway deaths involving teen drivers and their passengers between 2015 and 2019. Furthermore, speeding tickets can add points to your license — too many points accumulated in a certain time frame can result in license suspension or revocation.
While reckless driving is a broad term, it can include speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, racing, ignoring traffic signals, and even driving impaired. Again, getting charged with reckless driving can mean points on your license, fines, and/or jail time, depending on the severity of the charge and state laws.
Driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, and operating a vehicle while impaired are all terms for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Not only is it illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol, but blood alcohol legal limits for drivers are typically stricter. If a teenager is pulled over and charged with DUI, DWI, or OVI, the consequences include license suspension, fines, juvenile detention sentences, and community service.
With summer fast approaching, many will be eager to take to the roads once again. With the increased traffic and higher incidences of DUI-related traffic fatalities in the summer, your teen must have a solid foundation of safe driving techniques. Parents can also encourage safe driving behaviors in their children by setting an example to follow.
“Setting a good example of safe driving is an important part of making sure your teen understands how to keep safe on the road,” Ferraro remarks. “Keep both hands on the wheel, avoid fiddling with the radio or your phone and demonstrate strong defensive driving.”