The ‘100 Deadliest Days’: a tragic reality

By Robert L. Sumwalt

Infographic showing the risks to teen drivers during the "100 deadliest days"The “100 Deadliest Days.” In the transportation safety world, this how we refer to the summer days for teens ages 16-19 in the U.S. As the father of a daughter who just moved out of that age group, we have to do more to change that reality.

What makes driving during this time of year so deadly for teens?

The time teens spend driving increases significantly during the summer months. A recent AAA study found that over the past five years, during the “100 Deadliest Days,” an average of 1,022 people died each year in crashes involving teen drivers.

Teen drivers lack driving experience. Help them gain experience by taking them out for a drive in the rain, snow and on sunny days. Allow them to experience driving in heavy traffic conditions, merging and making left turns.

Passengers significantly increase a teen driver’s risk of being in a crash. And, many states don’t restrict the passengers teen drivers are allowed to have in their car. Teen drivers should not carry passengers under age 21 – not their friends, and not their siblings or other young family members.

An average of 10 people die every day from a crash involving a teen driver during these 100 Deadliest Days. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for our teens — not drugs, not suicide, but motor vehicle crashes. We have to do more to change this reality.

As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children safe driving behaviors. We need to talk to them about engaging in activities while they are driving that can distract them from the driving task – talking on a cell phone, texting, changing the radio, or trying to use GPS. We need to protect them from injuring themselves and others by not allowing them to carry any passengers. And most importantly, we need to demonstrate safe driving habits ourselves. Parents–your children are watching you! Don’t give good advice but set bad examples.

Robert L. Sumwalt is an NTSB Board Member.

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