By Christopher Hart
Memorial Day is the traditional kickoff to summer. For many people, summer is a busy time of year, and this can be especially true for teens. Graduation, family vacations, time spent with friends, summer jobs … often these busy summertime schedules mean lots of time spent behind the wheel for teen drivers, many of whom are novices. Unfortunately, summer can also be the most dangerous time of the year for teen drivers. In fact, according to AAA, the deadliest time of the year for teen drivers is between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
We know much about what makes driving such a dangerous activity for teens. Driving with teen passengers, driving at night, and driving while using cell phones or other devices are all associated with increased risk among teen drivers. The NTSB recommends that a comprehensive teen driver safety program, often called Graduated Driver Licensing, include (1) beginner (learner’s permit) and intermediate licensing stages with mandatory holding periods, (2) limiting which hours during the day teens can drive and limiting the number of teen passengers in the car for drivers in the intermediate stage, and (3) prohibiting the use of interactive wireless communication devices by drivers in both stages. Research has shown that this type of comprehensive teen driving program can significantly reduce the risk of crashes, injuries, and deaths.
Despite everything that is known about the dangers of teen driving and ways to reduce that risk, however, motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for teens across the nation. In 2012, more than 4,600 people were killed in crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 20. This is why the NTSB remains committed to improving teen driving safety through our recommendations and our involvement in activities such as Global Youth Traffic Safety Month (GYTSM), which is observed every May.
As we wrap up the month of May and this year’s GYTSM and go into summer, the NTSB encourages everyone – teen drivers and adult drivers alike – to remember that your safe driving can help prevent injuries and fatalities. Some ways to do that? For starters, buckle up every trip; put down your cell phone while driving; and avoid driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Summer will go by quickly – and we hope you will do everything you can to help make sure it goes safely as well!