Teens across the nation are out of school for the summer and taking advantage of that newfound freedom - and those freshly minted drivers' licenses - by hitting the road.
Sadly, that inexperience and youthful exuberance makes summer the most dangerous time for teens to drive, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
More than 7,300 teen drivers and passengers died in vehicle crashes between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays over the five-year period of 2005-2009. An average of 422 teens die in automobile accidents during each summer month, compared to just 363 in non-summer months.
Those deaths could be avoided with a little parental supervision, according to AAA Northern California.
"Parents should not underestimate the critical role they play in keeping their teens, safe, especially during these high risk months," said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokesperson. "The higher teen fatality rate is generally attributed to teens having more ‘free' time to drive or ride in cars with other teens, without adult supervision."
AAA says that, by acting as a driving coach for children, providing good advice, and setting strict rules, much risk can be averted.
AAA recommends adults restrict teens from driving unless they have a purpose to drive. The insurer notes that teens have three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, per mile driven. That risk is highest in the teen's first year of driving.
Night driving is also especially hazardous. By limiting nighttime driving the danger of a deadly crash can be halved.
AAA also recommends limiting the number of teen passengers; fatal crash rates quintuple for 16 to 19 year olds when two or more teen passengers are present. Disallowing teens to ride with teen drivers can also save lives.
"Parents need to remain involved with their teens and let them know that the choices they make behind the wheel could make the difference between life and death," Harris said.
For more information, visit www.aaa.com/teensdrive
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.