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New teen drivers endanger many during summer months

If you are hitting the road within the next few weeks, be aware that the kid next door may also be behind the wheel. You may have cheered when the neighbor got home with a shiny new Texas driver's license, but (admit it!) you probably shuddered a little, too. According to the latest research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, you have every reason to be concerned.

The number of fatal crashes involving teen drivers is rising. In fact, in the past year, that number has risen 10 percent, and the number of accidents is especially high for kids between 16 and 17.

Deadly summer days

AAA has named the period of time from Memorial Day to Labor Day as the "100 Deadliest Days," since it is during those weeks when traffic fatalities for teens soar. Typically, the rate of fatal accidents involving teen drivers jumps 15 percent during those 100 days. In the past five years, over 1,600 people lost their lives to teen drivers during those summer weeks alone.

New drivers within the 16- to 17-year age range are six times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than someone who is 18. They are twice as likely to face this tragedy as a driver between ages 30 and 59. It is probably not a shock to you to learn that statistics show those very young and inexperienced drivers engaging in behaviors that often result in accidents, such as:

  • Allowing their passengers to distract them
  • Texting, calling or otherwise using smart phones
  • Speeding

In 60 percent of accidents involving teen drivers, police named texting or other distractions as a factor. Speed is a contributing cause in almost 30 percent of teen accidents that result in death. Nearly 60 percent of teens who died in car accidents were not restrained by seat belts.

While kids may learn a great deal during school months, they may learn some of the most difficult and painful lessons during the summer. AAA spokespeople urge parents to impress upon their new drivers the importance of caution and alertness behind the wheel. Nevertheless, you probably know how well teens listen to the warnings of parents. Tragically, when young drivers fail to heed this advice, they may also place you and your loved ones in danger.

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