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How you can keep your teen drivers safe during deadly driving days of summer

Posted June 7

Parents should review the dangerous practices that put teen drivers and those around them at risk — and look at the example they're setting themselves. During the "deadly days of summer," teen drivers sometimes kill or die. (Deseret Photo)

Parents should review the dangerous practices that put teen drivers and those around them at risk — and look at the example they're setting themselves. During the "deadly days of summer," teen drivers sometimes kill or die.

"If you're going to have an early, untimely death, the most dangerous two years of your life are between 16 and 17 and the reason for that is driving," Nichole Morris, a researcher at the University of Minnesota's HumanFIRST Laboratory, told the New York Times.

The primary risk in driving is distraction, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which reported that over the last five years, teen drivers have been involved in crashes that have killed more than 5,000 people, with a disproportionate share occurring in summer months. About 60 percent of those deaths were caused by distractions that drew the teen driver's attention from the important task of driving.

"Teens are among the riskiest drivers on the road, crashing four times more often than adult drivers do. In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of death among people age 16-20, killing more than 5,600 teens each year," the foundation said.

AAA reported that in summer "the average number of deaths from crashes involving teen drivers ages 16-19 increased by 16 percent per day compared to other days of the year."

In an earlier post, the foundation urged parents of teenagers to focus heavily on safety with their kids during the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

“Parents should not underestimate the critical role they play in keeping their teens safe, especially during these high-risk months,” said AAA vice president of public affairs Kathleen Marvaso. “Life feels more care-free when school’s out and teens have more opportunities to drive or ride in cars late at night with other teens — a deadly mix. With the majority of the most dangerous days falling during the traditional summer vacation months, parents must realize that there is no summer break from safety and be vigilant about remaining involved and enforcing rules with their teens.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that in 2013, motor vehicle crashes accounted for 2,163 teens 16-19 killed and 243,243 treated for injuries in emergency rooms. The CDC said that while those 15 to 24 make up just 14 percent of the population in the United States, "they account for 30 percent ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females."

In 2015, the Deseret News took a close look at how children die, including the dangers posed by teen drivers. Experts said lack of sleep, phones, texting and friends were among the factors that made teens vulnerable to harming others and being harmed in motor vehicles.

AAA put numbers on some of those distractions, noting that talking or attending to passengers in the vehicle accounted for 15 percent of crashes, cellphones — including talking, texting and other phone-related tasks — were involved in 12 percent of crashes and dealing in some way with something else inside the vehicle led to another 11 percent of crashes.

"Every day during the summer driving season, an average of 10 people die as a result of injuries from a crash involving a teen driver," said AAA Foundation's Jurek Grabowski in a written statement. "This new research shows that distraction continues to be one of the leading causes of crashes for teen drivers. By better understanding how teens are distracted on the road, we can better prevent deaths throughout the 100 Deadliest Days and the rest of the year."

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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