Deadly Teen Crashes Jump 14 Percent; Speed and Nighttime Driving are Major Factors
Hamilton, NJ – More than 1,050 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2016 during the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That is an average of 10 people per day – a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year, according to data analyzed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. As school lets out for summer, AAA stresses the importance of preparing and educating inexperienced teen drivers for some of the most dangerous driving days of the year.
“The number of fatal crashes involving teen drivers during the summer is an important traffic safety concern and research shows that young drivers are at greater risk and have higher crash rates compared to older and more experienced drivers,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Through education, proper training, and involvement of parents, we can help our young drivers to become better and safer drivers, which in turn keeps the roads safer for everyone.”
Bucking the national trend, New Jersey teen driver (16-20 years of age) and teen passenger (teens driven by their peers) deaths have decreased to 17 and 2, respectively, at the end of last year. While the number of teen driver deaths in 2017 is not the lowest on record – 15 teen motorists lost their lives in 2015 – teen passenger deaths fell to a new low, according to data from the New Jersey State Police.
According to the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, since strengthening the New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law, teen driver-involved fatal crashes have fallen nearly 50 percent from 85 in 2009 to 49 last year. This is significant not only because fewer teen drivers died, but also fewer people overall died. What many people don’t realize is that more than half of people killed in teen driver-involved fatal crashes are not the teen drivers or their passengers, but other roadway users.
However, there is more work to be done, currently New Jersey’s GDL law does not address the all the steps necessary to build a solid driving foundation by mandating practice hours. “Requiring practice hours would bring New Jersey in line with 46 other states and would provide a solid foundation for new drivers when it comes to their safety on the roadways,” said Noble. “Practice hour requirements are critical to ensuring that teens are exposed to a variety of driving experiences including nighttime driving as well as wet and freezing weather conditions. It also helps to provide teens with much needed parental instruction while they are driving in everyday situations.”
Speed and nighttime driving are significant factors contributing towards the number of crashes, and subsequently fatalities, involving teen drivers during the 100 Deadliest Days (statistics based on 2016 NHTSA FARS data as analyzed by the AAA Foundation):
- 36 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities involving teen drivers occurred between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
- 1 in 10 of all motor vehicle nighttime crash fatalities involved a teen driver
- Data show a 22 percent increase in the average number of nighttime crashes per day involving teen drivers during the 100 Deadliest Days compared to the rest of the year
- 1 in 10 of all motor vehicle speed-related fatalities involved a teen driver
- 29 percent of all motor vehicle deaths involving a teen driver were speed-related
“Not only are risks, like nighttime driving, a particular danger to young drivers, nearly every state also has a law restricting how late teens may be out on the roads,” added Noble. “This is a timely reminder for parents to be actively involved in their teen’s learning-to-drive process, understanding the risks and to be educated on their state’s teen driving law.”
In preparation for the dangerous summer driving period, AAA encourages parents to educate their teens and themselves about risky driving behavior. Parents should:
- Know the GDL protections put into place to keep teens safe.
- Discuss with teens early and often the dangers of risky driving situations, such as speeding and nighttime driving.
- Teach by example and minimize your own risky behavior when behind the wheel.
- Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers. Consider setting driving limits that are stronger than a state’s law, and enforce those limits.
TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools, including licensing and state law information, to help prepare parents and teens for not only the dangerous summer driving season, but also all year long. The site also features new interactive widgets highlighting teen driving risks, as well as a social host quiz. 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.
Strengthening teen driving laws to increase roadway safety is a top priority for AAA. The Association’s advocacy efforts are helping to protect teens by working to pass graduated driver licensing laws, including seat belt requirements, wireless device bans and nighttime driving and passenger restrictions, in states across the country.