The summer months, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, are commonly known as the “100 deadliest days” for traffic accidents. Summer months are especially dangerous for teen drivers.
Teens populate roads more frequently during summer vacation, and, as the most inexperienced group of drivers, they tend to make roads more dangerous for everyone.
As we enter the “100 deadliest days,” local law enforcement and AAA are informing eastern Idahoans about the likely surge in traffic accidents.
According to the Idaho Falls Police Department, there were 138 traffic accidents with injury between Memorial Day and Labor Day last year in Idaho Falls.
Accidents in Bonneville County, where speed limits are higher, tend to be more dangerous, law enforcement representatives said.
Bryan Lovell, a Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, said eastern Idaho already has seen some serious traffic accidents, just a week after Memorial Day weekend.
“We’ve had a lot of serious crashes already, and we haven’t gotten to the heavy part of the summer, when we see the highest number of (fatal crashes),” he said.
The number of fatal crashes involving teens is on the rise nationwide, according to AAA.
Since 2014, teen-related crash fatalities nationwide have increased every summer, according to AAA data. There were 640 in 2014 and 736 in 2017, the most recent year on record.
In 2017, more than 2,000 Idaho drivers 19 and younger were involved in fatal or injury crashes. That’s twice as many as would be expected based on the group’s population, a AAA news release said.
Teens were disproportionately cited in 2017 for speeding, inattentive driving, following too close and failing to stop at stop signs and signals, the release said.
“Inexperienced drivers sometimes fail to see the relationship between poor driving habits and the likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash,” said Matthew Conde, AAA Idaho’s spokesman, in the release. “But after teens receive their license, their education is just beginning. Parents should continue to provide valuable feedback to help youthful drivers hone their skills.”
Idaho Falls Police Department Spokeswoman Jessica Clements said the city’s top two causes of traffic accidents are distracted driving and speeding.
For teens, distracted driving and speeding coupled with inexperience are especially dangerous, Clements said.
“They’re not necessarily bad at driving, but they’re a little more inexperienced,” she said.
Alcohol also is a factor for teen-related accidents.
One in six teens in fatal crashes during summer months tested positive for alcohol, the AAA release said.
Speeding, distracted or drunk teen drivers put more than just themselves or their passengers at risk.
According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen drivers themselves.
Lovell said parents should talk to their teen drivers about three things this summer. First, wear a seat belt. Second, obey traffic laws. And third, “make driving the car a priority,” he said, or avoid distractions.
“There’s never any distraction that can’t wait until you stop and are in a safe place,” Lovell said.