July/August deadliest months for teen drivers

AURORA, Ill.—A study released as of June 22 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concludes that July and August are the deadliest months of the year for 16- and 17-year-old drivers, but properly enforced driving restrictions for teens can lower the death and injury crash rate for this group by 20 percent.

The study also showed that teens who observe passenger restriction rules experience far fewer crashes than their counterparts who ignore such rules.

“Summer vacation for teens often means unstructured schedules, less guidance from Mom and Dad, and more exposure to crashes,” said Brad Roeber, AAA Chicago regional president. “Enforcing safe driving rules that include passenger and nighttime limits is essential in keeping your teen and others safe on the road.”

To reach its findings, AAA collected data from states where nighttime and passenger restrictions are in place for 16-year-old drivers, and compared those data with data from states that had no restrictions.

Factors that differentiated crash-free from crash-involved teen drivers included: 1) Compliance with state graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws, 2) adherence to traffic laws and regulations, and 3) parental involvement.

“Teens whose parents take an active role, obey traffic rules and regulations, and follow GDL requirements are much less likely to crash,” Roeber said. “Just think how many lives we could save with the combination of the right laws and parental involvement.”

The study found that compliance with passenger restrictions was especially problematic, and not surprisingly, teens involved in crashes were more likely than crash-free teens to report more frequent violations.

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 in the intermediate stage of GDL, and nearly half of crash-involved teens reported violating the passenger restriction “more than a few times.”

Thirty-three percent of crash-involved teens reported having received a ticket, as compared with 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.

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

According to the Foundation, nearly half of 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes were carrying at least one passenger younger than 21 and no adult passengers. More than one-third of deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., despite the fact there are fewer teens on the road during those hours.

In Illinois, GDL laws prevent 16-year-olds from driving after 11 p.m., Sunday-Thursday, and after 12:01 a.m., Friday or Saturday. For the first six months of a person’s license, or until the driver is age 18, whichever occurs first, the number of passengers in a vehicle is limited to one person younger than 20, unless the additional passenger(s) is a sibling, step-sibling, child or step-child of the driver. In Illinois, between 1995 and 2004, 1,121 people were killed in crashes involving a 16- or 17-year-old driver.

Win an iPod Shuffle!

To assist parents, AAA Chicago will offer an interactive and engaging DVD called Driver-ZED, available at AAA branch offices throughout the state (for a branch locator, visit www.aaa.com). Driver-ZED puts the teen user through 100 driving scenarios, allowing him or her to experience conditions it could take several years to encounter on the road. Also included is a Teen Driving Kit supplemental information to aid parents in the process. A nominal fee of $10 will be charged to AAA members ($15 for non-members). Each DVD contains an entry form to win an iPod Shuffle. There will be one iPod winner at each participating full-service AAA branch.

For more about Driver-ZED, visit the Web site of www.driverzed.org.

From the Aug. 23-29, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!