Parents Beware: Teen Drivers at Risk of Traffic Fatalities
The last thing we want to think about is traffic fatalities, but with the summer season right around the corner, there is no better time to warn about the dangers of teen driving during the “100 Deadliest Days,” a term coined by AAA.
The 100 deadliest days for teen drivers occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, meaning teen drivers and those who share the roads with them are at the highest risk of getting into fatal accidents during this period. Why? Speculations attribute these deadly days to the summertime because teens tend to drive more, drive in groups with their friends, and drink alcohol. Also, summertime gives teens more “unstructured time behind the wheel,” according to Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research.
AAA data reveals that more than 7,000 people died in teen driving-related summertime crashes between 2010 and 2019, which equates to an average of 7 teen driving fatalities per day during the summer in the US, compared to an average of 6 deaths per day for the rest of the year. Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that new teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are 3 times as likely as adults to get into a deadly crash.
These statistics are frightening.
What’s also unsettling is that in a survey about teen driving behaviors, teens admitted to doing the following:
- Speeding on the highway
- Speeding in residential areas
- Not wearing their seatbelt
- Driving aggressively
- Running red lights
- Driving drowsy
These are some of the many risky driving behaviors displayed by teen drivers. But that’s not all. Although teens participating in the survey admitted to displaying several poor driving habits, another significant issue for teen drivers is underage drinking. Teens are at the age where they’re exposed to and experimenting with alcohol, experiencing peer pressure, and trying to “fit in.” With this in mind, it’s important to understand the facts about DUI. Underage DUI statistics reveal the consequences of teen drinking and driving:
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teen drivers, and about 25% of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver
- In 2018, 24% of young drivers 15 to 20 years old who were killed in crashes had BACs of .01 g/dL or higher
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that minimum-drinking-age laws have saved 31,959 lives between 1975 and 2017
- A 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 5% of high school students drove after drinking alcohol, while 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol
- Youth who drink alcohol are much more likely to get into alcohol-related car crashes
As you can see, the risks of teen drinking and driving are substantial. Whether they drink and drive or get into an accident with a drunk driver, teens are vulnerable to serious risks on the road. If a person under 21 drives with a BAC of .02 to .07, they could lose their license for 90 days for a first offense or lose their license until they are 21 for a subsequent offense. Not to mention, they could get charged for a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Besides a DUI charge, teens are prone to getting accused of hit and run. As new drivers on the roads, they may be unfamiliar with the process of collecting and sharing information after colliding with an unattended vehicle. Like many drivers, teens may get caught off-guard after colliding with an unattended vehicle and panic, fleeing the scene. Little would they know, however, that doing so could land them with hit and run charges.
What Can Parents do to Protect their Teen Drivers?
If you’re a parent of a teen driver, learning all this information may be overwhelming at first. But our lawyer encourages you to use this learning experience as an opportunity to educate your teen about safe driving. As such, AAA provides the following tips for parents to utilize for their teen drivers.
Talk to your teen: Have an open and honest discussion with your teen about the rules and responsibilities of driving. Share some stories and data about common distractions teen drivers experience, while emphasizing that driving is a skill that requires the driver’s full, undivided attention. Texting and driving is among the top distractions for teens, so remind your child that texts and calls can wait until they arrive at their destination. Other safe driving tips you can explain to your teen include:
- Drive defensively
- Wear a seat belt at all times
- Avoid aggressive driving, especially if road rage is involved
- Pull off the road before eating and drinking, reading text messages, returning calls, checking social media, sending emails, etc.
- Ask passengers for assistance if help is needed while driving
- Drive at the posted speed limit
- Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead
- Check blind spots when changing lanes or reversing the vehicle
- Use turn signals when changing lanes
- Never drive while intoxicated and/or impaired
Educate yourself: Knowledge is power, and when it comes to teen driving, it can save lives. Thus, you should familiarize yourself with Washington State’s graduated driver licensing law and enforce the guidelines for your teen. For your understanding, graduated driver licensing laws in Washington are as follows:
- Minimum age for learner stage: 15
- Minimum duration of learner stage: 6 months
- Total supervised driving hours: 50 hours for daytime, 10 for nighttime
- Minimum age for intermediate stage: 16
- Nighttime driving restrictions: 10 pm to 5 am
- Passenger restrictions (except family): No passengers under 20 for the first 6 months, and ONLY one passenger under 20 for the remaining 6 months
- Minimum age for full driving privilege: 17
Set a good example: A common understanding is that children tend to model their parents’ behaviors. Teens are no exception. For this reason, you should ensure your driving behaviors are consistent with the message you tell your teen, as they often learn about driving from watching their parents.
Set consequences: Explaining the rules is one thing, but enforcing them is a key factor for your teen’s safety and success. As such, you should set rules for distracted driving and consider imposing punishments if your teen breaks them, such as taking away their driver’s license or cellphone temporarily.
Compassionate Legal Counsel Is a Phone Call Away
Has your teen gotten a DUI or accused of another offense? Do you have questions about Washington State’s teen driving laws? You’ve come to the right place. Guadagno Law, PLLC is a safe place for clients of all backgrounds to get dedicated, effective legal representation. That being said, June is pride month, bringing the largest parade for the entire state, both in size and attendance. Enjoy it, but please be safe!
Our friendly team takes pride in our diverse community and supports all clients, no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. We encourage you to reach out online or at (206) 895-6800 if you need proven criminal defense!