School's out for summer, and for many teenagers, that means a lot more time on the road as they enjoy a break from academic responsibilities. They've traded tests and homework for pool parties and part-time jobs, and as they cruise down the highways with their friends, safety probably isn't foremost in their minds. But automobile crashes are the number one killer of America's teens, and statistics show that the danger is greatest in summer, with seven of the top 10 deadliest driving days occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
According to a 2010 AAA analysis of crash data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the dates with the highest number of fatalities include June 10, July 4, July 9, Aug. 8 and Aug. 14. The NHTSA Fatality Analysis Recording System indicates that nearly twice as many automotive deaths occur during the summer months than the rest of the year combined.
With the increased risk of deadly car crashes, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is urging parents and teens to focus on safety with driving tips and practices that can keep teen drivers and their passengers from contributing to these sobering statistics. The academy, which opened in Los Angeles in November 2011 and offers a coaching-based driver education course, has released a set of guidelines that can help save lives.
Parents concerned about their teens this summer can take five important steps toward driving safety:
- Commit to spending at least 50 hours accompanying teens as they drive between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Research by the National Institutes of Health suggests that graduated licensing laws mandating supervised driving can reduce teen driving deaths. Even if your state doesn't have these gradual requirements, or your teen already has a driver's license, spending time in the car with teen drivers can help promote safer driving habits.
- Discuss where your teen is going — and the safest way to get there — before handing over the keys. Help them make decisions about allotting enough time for the trip, choosing alternate routes when necessary, and following the rules of the road.
- Consider a written agreement with your teen that sets clear rules and expectations for unsupervised driving. The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy recommends establishing a passenger limit and other guidelines that can reduce the risks of teen driving. Remind your teen that driving is a privilege, not a right.
- Talk about the danger of distractions like texting, channel surfing, loud music, talking to passengers and eating food while driving. Teens should think about how these distractions can affect their driving and how to handle them.
- Be a role model. Set an example for your teen with safe driving habits of your own. Follow the rules of the road, maintain safe driving speeds, stay calm and always wear your seatbelt.