AAA warns teen drivers and parents of the ‘100 Deadliest Days’

KENNEWICK, Wash. — For teenage drivers, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is considered to be the most fatal, according to officials with AAA.

According to a AAA news release, even though that time-stretch accounts for less than a third of the year, “the latest teen crash data shows that from 2010 to 2019, more than half the teen driving-related deaths happened during this period; more than 7,000 people killed nationwide, 343 of them in Washington, and 265 in Idaho.”

When it comes to overall teen driver-related deaths per capita, Washington ranked tenth for the least amount in 2019 – with 24 fatalities. However, more than half of those Washington deaths happened during the 100 Deadliest Days, the release said.

Kelly Just, the public relations manager for AAA Washington, said it’s due to the amount of free time young drivers have since school is out.

“During that 100 days because teens have more activities and more time to hang out with their friends, this is the time that is considered the deadliest for teen drivers to be behind the wheel,” Just said.

Just said most of the accidents are caused by speeding or distracted driving.

“One teen passenger under the age of 21 doubles the chance of a teen driver being involved in a fatal crash,” Just said.

To help combat this issue and lower the number of deaths, Just said she recommends parents and teens sign a contract agreeing to follow certain safety rules on the road.

Just having an adult aged 35 or older in the car lowers a teen driver’s risk of death by 62%, the news release said.

“The more time parents and caregivers spend with their teen drivers supervising them, setting up rules for them to follow, enforcing those rules, and modeling good driver behavior, that’s what it’s going to take,” Just said.

Carolee Birge, the owner of Accurate Driving Academy, said in her nearly 12 years of teaching, one of her biggest tips to new drivers is to stay calm and focus.

“Take time, double-check, look twice. Be aware and practice,” Birge said. “Sometimes they’re not thinking about how fast they’re going or what’s going on in front of them.”

Just added that even though the 100 Deadliest Days is centered around teen drivers, the issue impacts everyone on the road.

“If you think, well, I don’t have a teen driver in my life so this doesn’t impact me, more than half of those who are killed in these fatal crashes involving teen drivers aren’t the teen drivers,” Just said. “It’s other road users so you have to remember you’re sharing the road with them and so you need to be aware of this as well.”

But the most important thing to remember is that “driving is a privilege to be earned, not a right.”