ocial media is awash with fans of gridiron teams counting down the days to the first kickoff of the year, generally starting the countdown at 100 days. (Just for the record, Western Carolina University hosts Mercer on Aug. 31).
But there’s another countdown underway, one we don’t look forward to. The clock has started on what’s termed the “100 Deadliest Days’’ for teen drivers, the timeframe from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, 94 teen drivers were killed and more than 10,000 injured in traffic-related collisions on Tar Heel State roads last year. Nationwide about 10 teens a day will die in crashes over the course of the summer, a 14 percent increase compared to other days of the year.
Motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of death for teens. Not coincidentally, teens have the highest crash rate of any age group, and the younger the teen driver, the higher the rate. AAA figures show drivers aged 16 to 17 are three times more likely than adults to be in a deadly crash. Overall, teens have a nearly 90 percent chance of being involved in a crash during their first three years of driving.
A number of factors come together to create those disturbing statistics. Many wrecks involve alcohol (17 percent, according to AAA) or speeding (28 percent). With no need to be in bed for the next day of school, teen drivers are free to stay out later. Nighttime crashes rise 22 percent over the 100 Days.
And then there’s distracted driving.
We’ve raised a generation hooked on social media, and we’ve lectured about the dangers of texting while driving repeatedly on these pages. But another distraction is other teens. With the freedom of summer come chances to socialize, and a carful of teens can be every bit as distracting as receiving a text message.
There are steps parents can take to curb the toll of the 100 Days. The first is a simple acknowledgement that safe driving takes experience; no one is born knowing hidden dangers. Stress the simple fact that speed kills, your eyes need to be on the road and your hands need to be on the wheel. Teach the basic lessons, like there needs to be tread on the tires and seatbelts – both for drivers and passengers – should be buckled.
If you’re a parent, have the talk.
If you’re not … well, keep in mind that about two-thirds of those killed or injured in a crash involving a teen driver are people that aren’t the teen who was behind the wheel in the crash.