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EDITORIAL: Teen driving danger zone

This time of year is particularly dangerous for teenage drivers, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in the United States. —
This time of year is particularly dangerous for teenage drivers, according to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in the United States. — 123RF Stock Photo

The internet world is strange: find the right spot on social media, and information will flow in and make you think almost every day.

If you have teenage drivers in your house and you follow Trooper Ben on Twitter (Ben Gardner of the Kansas Highway Patrol), last week might have given you a chilling wakeup call.

And if you don’t follow him, well, here’s the message anyway.

On May 28, Gardner posted a short video pointing out it was the first day of the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers in the United States — the stretch of spring and summer between Memorial Day in the United States and Labour Day.

By the time those 100 days are up, an estimated 700 teenage drivers will have died on roads in the U.S. — that’s right, an average of seven a day. Every day. It’s almost 20 per cent higher than other times of the year. The people killed aren’t always the driver, either. Passengers are just as much at risk.

If you have teenage drivers in your house and you follow Trooper Ben on Twitter (Ben Gardner of the Kansas Highway Patrol), last week might have given you a chilling wakeup call.

It’s a big enough problem that research has been done on the causes of the heightened number of teen accidents.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says teens are out of school for many of those days. They’re driving more and driving later. Crash data from between 2013 and 2017 suggests the causes of accidents are speeding (28 per cent of accidents) drinking and driving (17 per cent) and driver distraction (nine per cent). They’re driving in unfamiliar conditions, are out later, and do more nighttime driving.

Stop and look at all of that. Every single one of those causes in the U.S. is an issue here as well.

What can you do about it?

Well, start by talking. Raise the issues early and often, and don’t shy away from the discussion just because you think it might be difficult. Make clear arrangements with your teens about what to do if they or their drive home has been drinking and they need a way home. Give your teens an option other than crossing their fingers and hoping they’ll make it home safely.

And think of this as well: model good driving behaviour. Drive at safe speeds, don’t use your cellphone and don’t be an impatient or angry driver. Young drivers learn more than you realize from the behaviour they see daily.

Road deaths change a family in an instant. There’s no going back, just the constant reliving of the things you’ve lost, and the things that might have been, but will now never be.

Plenty of teens are looking forward to the end of school, the looser rules of summer and the chance to have fun.

Don’t delay — after the accident is very much too late. And you don’t need Trooper Ben to tell you that on Twitter.


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