Summertime a deadly time for teenage drivers

For many, the 100-day period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the best time of the year because school is out and the days are warm.

But for teen drivers, it also can be the deadliest.

The AAA calls it the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” because of the high number of teen driving fatalities.

According to a AAA Idaho news release, nearly 4,000 teen drivers and passengers from 13 to 19 years old have died in summer crashes during the past five years. On average, seven teens die in the United States each day in car accidents between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the release said.

Idaho Falls is no exception to the deadly trend.

Tiana Hailey Cardona, 17, of Idaho Falls, died June 2 as a passenger in a rollover crash. The 17-year-old driver of the car was under the influence of alcohol and driving recklessly, authorities said.

Rocky Mountain Driving School owner and head instructor Sheri Powell said many teens drive irresponsibly in the summertime.

“We (at Rocky Mountain Driving School) see a lot of teens with a carefree mentality during the summer,” Powell said. “They think they are invincible.”

AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson said teen drivers also face many distractions during the summer.

“Teens tend to drive with more passengers in the summer,” Carlson said. “The teens’ attention to the task at hand is diminished when there are multiple conversations going on and other distractions in the car.”

A 2012 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the risk of death for 16- and 17-year-olds increases by 44 percent when a passenger younger than 21 is in the car, Carlson said. It doubles with two passengers and quadruples with three or more.

There were six people younger than 21 in the car when Cardona died.

Powell tries to teach her students to avoid risky driving behavior, even if it means sticking out from the crowd.

“You can teach teens all you want to stand up for what they believe in and be a leader,” Powell said. “But it’s really up to those teens to make the decision for themselves and for parents to actively prevent unsafe driving.”