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An Echo Press Editorial: How to avoid the '100 Deadliest Days'

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
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Are you a teen who is excited about getting a driver’s license?

We don’t want to burst your bubble but remember that the license carries with it a responsibility. Drive safe. Your life, your passengers’ lives, and the lives of others on the road are in your hands.

A sobering truth: An average of seven people are killed nationwide, per day, in teen driver-related crashes from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Nationwide, more than 30% of deaths involving teen drivers happen during that spring and summer period. There’s even a name for it – the “100 Deadliest Days.”

For every mile driven, new teen drivers (ages 16-17 years old) are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults, according to AAA-Minnesota-Iowa, the Auto Club Group.

This summer could prove to be even more dangerous than normal for teen drivers, according to Meredith Mitts, spokesperson for AAA.

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“AAA expects two years’ worth of pent up travel demand to be unleashed in the coming months,” she said. “That means more traffic on our roadways, which raises the crash risk – particularly for young, inexperienced drivers.”

In Minnesota, an average of nine teen drivers are involved in fatal crashes during the 100 Deadliest Days and every year, an average total of 29 people are killed in teen driver-related crashes.

“Teens’ inexperience behind the wheel makes them more susceptible to dangerous driving behaviors – like speeding, distracted driving and driving while drowsy,” Mitts said. “Even young drivers that are prepared and focused carry an increased crash risk due to their lack of experience behind the wheel. That’s why it’s so important for parents to play an active role in guiding their teens toward safe driving behaviors.”

The AAA offers this advice for parents:

  • Driving with teen passengers. Teen drivers’ crash risks multiply when they have teen passengers. Set limits and enforce them.
  • Driving at night. Night driving is more dangerous due to limited visibility, fatigue, and impaired drivers on the road. This is especially a risky time for teens. Limit the time your novice driver spends behind the wheel at night. 
  • Not wearing a safety belt. Wearing a safety belt greatly reduces the risk of being hurt or killed in a crash. Make a rule: everyone buckles up for every trip.
  • Speeding. Speed is a leading factor in crashes for teens and adults. Teens need to follow posted speed limits and parents should set a good example and strong rules. Teens should also learn how to adjust their speed based on roadway factors like reduced traction and visibility and varying traffic volumes.
  • Distracted driving. Teen passengers are the biggest distraction to teen drivers, but cell phones come in second. Many teens admit to interacting with their phone and in-car infotainment systems while behind the wheel despite clear dangers. Make a family rule covering these and other distractions that everyone abides by.
  • Drowsy driving. Teens have a hard time getting enough sleep and often struggle with drowsiness. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, and teens have the highest risk. Ensure everyone who is behind the wheel has gotten enough sleep.
  • Impaired driving. Driving impaired from alcohol and other drugs puts everyone at risk. Enforce strict zero tolerance rules with your teen and be a good role model.

The single most important thing parents can do to keep their teens safe behind the wheel is to be actively involved in the learning to drive process, the AAA said. This means talking with teens early and often about abstaining from dangerous behavior behind the wheel, such as speeding, impairment and distracted driving.

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