June 20, 2012We hear a lot about how different events increase or decrease depending on the particular time of year. For instance there are a lot more chimney fires toward mid-fall and early winter because a lot of folks are firing up their chimneys for the first time of the year. It's a numbers thing. More people are doing it so the number of chimney fires rises. So what does summer bring? Car accidents.
Today is the official first day of summer. Accidents increase in the summer months because there are more people on the roads. Especially teenagers, according to a two year old study by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In the summer, teens have three months where hours that would normally be occupied with in-school activity can be spent doing plenty of out-of-the-home activities. So, there's quite a bit of opportunity for driving and often not a lot of things to fill the time but goofing around.
Trust me - I'm all for goofing around - but it's not a great idea while driving. Especially for teens who are easily distracted by things like texting...and teens text a lot according to a 2009-2010 Nielson study.
Teens age 13-17 send an average of 3,339 texts a month! That's a lot of texting. The numbers go down as age goes up. 18 to 24 year olds only send about 1,630 texts each month, but the number of texts sent each month increases each year. Look.
That was in 2009 and 2010, so the numbers are undoubtedly higher now. Now you might say that your teen would never text and drive, but a recent government survey would disagree with you. In the survey, about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or e-mailed while driving during the previous month, and roughly 43 percent of high school juniors acknowledged they did the same thing.
Here's a quote from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; "We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said.
Distracted driving deaths are most common in teens and is blamed for about 16 percent of teen motor vehicle deaths, according to federal transportation officials. What does this have to do with teenagers driving around in the summer? Well, remember it's a numbers thing. A phenomenon that already exists (distracted teenage driving) can increase in frequency when the number of occurrences of teens behind the wheel goes up...like in the summer. Also, five of the deadliest days for teenage drivers fall in the summer months according to AAA. The deadliest is the 4th of July.
Here at The Record, we've already seen an increase in vehicle accidents in the area. Nothing too shocking, but more than we've been seeing in the month leading up to summer. To my knowledge only one of those involved a teenage driver, and that one didn't seem to have anything to do with distracted driving. That doesn't mean parents shouldn't take notice, however. In fact, AAA suggests "parents and teens should establish a driving agreement that keeps teens off the road at night and restricts their riding in cars with multiple passengers."
Three times in the last three months, I've been on the receiving end of a teenage driver attempting to scare me by swerving a vehicle toward me while I was jogging. Three times in three months. And I use the word "attempting" loosely. They each succeeded in scaring me. I remember being a teenager, and I remember doing stupid, poorly thought out things. The thought that someone of that age was playing with my life is more than a little scary. It just goes to show that your teen may not be the vigilant, consistent and undistracted driver you may think he or she is.
Summer is here, your kids are on the roads and we all want them and everyone else to make it through without incident. Summer is such a great time when you're young, so take a few minutes and remind your recently licensed what it takes to be a safe and responsible driver. It's important to everyone who will be be on the roads this summer. All of us. Even if we're jogging.