July, August deadliest months for young drivers

July, August deadliest months for young drivers
Fatality and injury crash rates for 16-year-old drivers were 20 percent lower in a state with nighttime and passenger restrictions than in a comparison jurisdiction that lacked these building blocks of safer teen driving, according to a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In addition, the study also showed that twice as many crash-free teens reported never having violated their state's passenger restriction provision compared to teens that had crashed. The significant differences between crash-free and crash-involved teen drivers were: overall compliance with provisions found in state graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs, adherence to traffic laws and regulations, and parental involvement.

"Teens who obey traffic rules and regulations, follow GDL regulations, and have actively involved parents are much less likely to crash," said Cheri Cihak, AAA South Dakota spokesperson. "Just think how many lives could be saved with the combination of the right laws and parental involvement."

The study found that compliance with passenger restrictions was especially problematic, and teens involved in crashes reported more frequent violations when compared to crash-free teens. For example, 30 percent of crash-free teens, but only 16 percent of crash-involved teens, reported never violating their jurisdiction's passenger restriction during their first six months of the intermediate stage of GDL. Nearly half of crash-involved teens reported violating the passenger restriction "more than a few times."

Teens who had crashed were found to be more likely to violate traffic laws, relative to crash-free teens. For example, in Oregon 33 percent of crash-involved teens reported having received a ticket, as compared to only 13 percent of crash-free teens. Also, teens who had not been involved in crashes reported higher levels of parental monitoring, relative to their counterparts who had been involved in crashes.

"The summer months can be particularly deadly for teen drivers," said Cihak. "Our analysis of crash data shows that July and August are the deadliest months of the year for 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Summer vacation for teens often means unstructured schedules, less guidance from mom and dad, and more exposure to crashes. Enforcing safe driving rules that include passenger and nighttime limits is essential in keeping our teens and others safe on the road."

Crash deaths for 16- and 17-year-old drivers average nearly 20 percent higher in July and August, relative to the average monthly toll, according to a AAA Foundation analysis of federal crash data. From 1995 through 2004, an average of 104 16- and 17-year-old drivers died during July and August, compared to an average monthly death toll of 87 young drivers over the 10-year period.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and government data show that 16-year-olds are involved in more than five times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as are adults in their 30s, 40s, or 50s.

According to the Foundation, nearly half of 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes are carrying at least one passenger under age 21 and no adult passengers. Over one third of deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

, despite the fact that there are fewer teens on the road during those hours.

Graduated driving laws ease new drivers into licensure, allowing them to build experience behind the wheel before encountering more complex � and more risky � driving situations. In South Dakota, the GDL law restricts newly licensed drivers from driving between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., but it does not impose any restrictions on the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle with a teen driver, an important factor in reducing the number of teen fatality and injury crash rates.

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