100 Deadliest Days for Teen Driving: A Summer Crash Course

Five teenagers in a convertible car together enjoying the summer

Posted on May 26, 2021

Young people wait all year for summertime, especially in the south. School’s out. Fun at the beach. Hanging with friends. Did we mention school is out?

But for all its fun and frivolity, summer has a dark side, too. At a time when we’re all aware of the toll taken by the pandemic – and that threat continues — we should also be reminded of a different killer that targets our young people. It’s not a disease, but it takes the life of 7 American teenagers every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

It is simply this: Dangerous driving.

While as much a part of life’s routine as eating, sleeping, and watching TV, driving is a deadly activity for far too many young people. And summer, when young people rejoice at being out of school and enjoying time with friends, is the most dangerous time – causing the stretch from Memorial Day to Labor Day to be referred to as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen driving.

Not all deadly car crashes happen in the middle of the night on some lonely country road. And they don’t always involve alcohol and drugs, although too many do. Some of these wrecks are a function of sheer volume – school is out and more young people are on the road. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are key practices that can save your teen’s life. In fact, if you’ve had a family meeting to discuss how you would handle COVID-19, you should do the same for summer driving, focusing on these “must-dos:”

Tip #1: Wear a Seatbelt

Other than not driving at all, nothing increases your chance of surviving a car crash more than this safety feature.

Tip #2: Put the Phone Away

Not just in a nearby cupholder, but out of reach. Any phone calls should be hands-free. Absolutely no texting, social media posting, emailing, or anything else that would cause the driver to take his or her eyes off the road.

Tip #3: Eliminate Other Distractions

Listening to loud music, trying to eat a sandwich, reaching for something in the back seat – all these things are proven to cause a car crash. It’s so easy to safely pull over and scarf down a burger or reach for your jacket. Don’t risk multitasking at high speed.

Tip #4: Have a Designated Driver

Not one who drinks less, but one who doesn’t drink at all.

Tip #5: Use Ride-Sharing Services

They are abundant, cheap, and the best way to guarantee a safe ride home.

Tip #6: Slow Down

On a 10-mile trip, doing 60 in a 40 mph zone instead of the speed limit only saves you a couple of minutes, yet the risk of serious injury or death goes way up. It’s just not worth it. 

Even if you think it’s unlikely your teens and young adults would engage in these risky behaviors, it’s worth the conversation. Check out the AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index, which shows that a shocking 72% of drivers aged 16-18 admitted to having engaged in at least one dangerous driving behavior in the past 30 days:

  • Driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street (47%)
  • Driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a highway (40%)
  • Texting while driving (35%)
  • Running a red light (32%)
  • Driving without a seatbelt (17%)

We’ve all been through a lot in the past year or so. The last thing Florida families need is to emerge safely from this pandemic, only to face the tragedy of a deadly car crash involving a young driver.

This summer, take a few moments to talk to your teens about safe driving. Let’s make sure their memory of the Summer of 2021 is that it was the 100 Happiest Days of their life.