LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Over the past five years, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the period that has become known as the "100 Deadliest Days," when the number of crash fatalities involving a teen driver historically rise.
New crash data from 2013-2017 reveals major factors contributing to fatal teen crashes during the summer driving period include:
--Speeding (28 percent)
--Drinking and driving (17 percent)
--Distraction (9 percent)
"Crash data shows teens are a vulnerable driver group with a higher probability of being involved in crashes," said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "And while teens may make mistakes when first learning to drive, it is important to continue educating them about safety behind the wheel so they avoid the reckless behaviors that put themselves and others at risk on the road."
Summer brings more teens behind the wheel
AAA Foundation research found that nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen behind the wheel. Crashes for teen drivers increase significantly during the summer because teens are out of school and driving more.
During the "100 Deadliest Days" over the past five years:
-- An average of almost 700 people died each year in crashes involving teen drivers.
-- The average number of deaths from crashes involving teen drivers ages 15-18 was 17 percent higher per day compared to other days of the year.
Research has found that reckless behavior like drinking and driving, speeding and distraction are significant factors contributing to the alarming number of crash deaths involving teen drivers every summer.
"Teens should prepare for summer driving by practicing safety during every trip," said Lori Weaver Hawkins, manager, public and government affairs, AAA Blue Grass. "Storing your phone out of reach, minding the speed limit, and staying away from impairing substances like alcohol and marijuana will help prevent many crashes from ever occurring."
Speeding significantly increases the severity of a crash and is a growing problem among teen drivers. In the AAA Foundation's latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, half (49.7 percent) of teen drivers reported speeding on a residential street in the past 30 days and nearly 40 percent say they sped on the freeway.
Drinking and driving
Despite the fact that teens cannot legally consume alcohol, one in six teen drivers involved in fatal crashes during the summer tested positive for alcohol.
Distracted driving, an underreported problem
More than half of teen drivers (52 percent) in the AAA Foundation's latest Traffic Safety Culture Index report reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days and nearly 40 percent report sending a text or email. It is difficult for law enforcement to detect distraction following a crash, which has made distracted driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues.
Additional AAA Foundation research using in-vehicle dash-cam videos of teen driver crashes found distraction was involved in 58 percent of teen crashes, approximately four times as many as federal estimates.
Parents are best line of defense
"Parents have plenty to be concerned about as their teen hits the road this summer," said Jennifer Ryan, AAA Director of State Relations. "Teens are making deadly mistakes on the road. Parents are the best line of defense to keep everyone safe behind the wheel."
To keep roads safer this summer, AAA encourages parents to:
-- Talk with teens early and often about abstaining from dangerous behavior behind the wheel, such as speeding, impairment and distracted driving.
-- Teach by example by not practicing risky behavior when driving.
-- Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.
TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen's overall driving privileges. Teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.