100 Deadly Days of Summer: How Parents Can Help Reduce Jackson's Teenage Driving Deaths

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Memorial Day weekend marked the beginning of what the American Automobile Association calls the “100 Deadliest Days” — the time period when teen driving deaths historically escalate. The summer driving season begins in light of a Clarion Ledger report ranking Mississippi as the third-most dangerous state in the country for teenage drivers. Those dual facts have parents wondering what they can do to reduce these fatalities.

A comprehensive eight-year research project by AAA exploring moments leading up to crashes revealed three top distractions teens indulged in while behind the wheel. The analysis of over 2,000 videos captured from in-car dash cameras showed that cell phone usage, talking or attending to other passengers, and attending to or looking at something in the vehicle were among the top three causes of crashes.

“Every day during the summer driving season, an average of 10 people die as a result from a crash involving a teen driver,” said Jared Grabowski, Research Director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a AAA report. “This new research shows that distraction continues to be one of the leading causes for teen drivers. By better understanding how teens are distracted on the road, we can better prevent deaths throughout the 100 Deadliest Days and the rest of the year.”

The AAA report directly correlates with the findings in Mississippi. The teen driving death rate in the state surpasses that of the national average for adults by about 186 percent, according to CBS News.

As hoards of teens hit the road this summer, there are various ways in which parents can positively influence and prepare their young drivers for the 100 Deadliest Days.

Hands-Free Driving

Forty-four percent of Mississippi’s teenage drivers admitted to texting and emailing while driving, according to the Clarion Ledger. “You can still drive down the street talking on the phone, and from there you can tempted to check your emails,” commented Joe Woods, vice president of state government relations for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America on Clarion Ledger.

Because the AAA believes that keeping mobile devices out of the hands of young motorists is of utmost priority, the association encourages parents to have a conversation early and often about the dangers of distracted driving. Don’t forget that since June 2015, it has been illegal to text and drive in Mississippi.

Practice Makes Perfect

While this may seem like an obvious tip, the state stresses the importance of a teen getting sufficient practice before hitting the road on their own. Not only will practice give teens exposure to varying conditions on the road, but will also allow them to get into a rhythm of adjusting the seat, mirrors, fastening seat belts, and learning how the controls work (emergency brake, flashers, headlights, etc.) — all major safety components when it comes to driving any vehicle.

Have the ‘High-Risks’ Talk

It is important that teens understand the high-risk conditions they should avoid while on the road. Public-safety officials have presented various situations that pose a danger to young drivers: 1. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can impair a driver’s judgement and ultimately prove deadly.

  1. Teens, especially males, tend to drive at high speeds; not obeying speed limits could result in collisions, some of which are fatal.

  2. High numbers of passengers in the car can be a major distraction for any driver, especially teens. Limiting the number of people inside the vehicle can promote safer driving skills for those just starting out.

  3. The highest crash risks for teens occur during the night, especially on weekends. Parents should have teens extensively practice driving at night during various types of weather before allowed to drive alone.

  4. Teens may face visual obstructions that restrict the driver’s visibility along the road, weather it is inclement weather, fog, curves on the road, bushes, and more.

  5. Not using seat belts can be deadly, and it is illegal in the state of Mississippi to not wear a seatbelt in a motor vehicle. Parents should try to ensure their teen drivers are following the seatbelt law, if anything because it could save lives.

Complete Parent-Teen Driving Contract

Both the state and the AAA offer a contract in which both parents and teens can engage. The contract lists the teen driver’s and parents’ responsibilities. For example, the teen driver will tell the parent his/her destination, who will be the passengers, and when they will return; and parents will respectfully listen and express any concerns they have regarding the situation. Other agreements on the contract range from “I will not drive aggressively” to “I will never drink alcohol and/or use drugs and drive.”

Teach By Example

Parents are the most influential role models in a teenager’s life, especially when it comes to driving. Because teens ride in the car with you on a daily basis, they are watching your every move on the road. AAA encourages parents to minimize distractions when driving and pass down safe driving tips to the youngsters who’ll soon be behind the wheel.

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