Teen drivers and their parents should take extra precautions during the '100 Deadliest Days' of summer

Young drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than older, more experienced drivers, and no time is that more true than during the "100 Deadliest Days." That's the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when school is out and teens are driving more. In 2016, more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver during the 100 Deadliest Days—an average of 10 every day, and a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year, according to data analyzed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Three major contributors toward the number of fatal crashes are distraction, speeding, and nighttime driving. A closer look at each factor reveals how dangerous they are, and what young motorists and their parents can do to make the roads safer for everyone.


AAA's research has found that:


59 percent

of teen crashes studied as part of a AAA teen driving program involved potentially distracted behavior


15 percent
of those teen crashes involved distraction from passengers


12 percent
of those teen crashes involved distraction from cellphones

Teen drivers looking at a map and being distracted


Distraction, especially from smartphones, is a well-known hazard behind the wheel—78 percent of drivers in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's most recent Traffic Safety Culture Index said it's "completely unacceptable" to type or send a text message or email while driving, as compared to 74 percent for driving after drinking alcohol. The consequences of driving while texting are the same as driving after drinking alcohol—deaths and injuries that are preventable. See why drivers who wouldn't drive intoxicated shouldn't drive intexticated either.


Be sure to stress the importance of focusing on the road, and emphasize that all distractions, even seemingly benign ones like reaching for an object or looking at a roadside crash, can be dangerous.

Man using a cellphone behind the wheel of a car


To further convince your teen of the dangers of distracted driving, have them read the story of Deanna Mauer. Mauer was killed in 2011 after another driver rear-ended her stopped car at 85 mph. The driver of the other car, Jorene Nicolas, eventually pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter after two trials and nearly four years in jail. Court documents suggest she was so distracted by her cellphone that she didn't realize Mauer's car was stopped in traffic up ahead. 


"Living day to day with the knowledge of what I did and the pain I caused is unbearable," Nicolas told the court in 2015. Read more about the Deanna Mauer case.

Don't drive intexticated


AAA's research has found that:


29 percent

of all motor vehicle deaths involving a teen driver were speed-related


1 in 10
of all motor vehicle speed-related deaths involved a teen driver

Car moving quickly


Driving above the speed limit carries risks for all motorists, but especially those with less experience. Some teen drivers purposefully speed for the thrill, but many others do it unintentionally because they haven't yet learned how to manage their speed based on the flow of traffic and the type of street or highway. 


Parents can help by guiding their teens when to make speed adjustments. For example, if approaching stopped traffic in the distance or transitioning from an arterial road to a side street, parents can point out that it's a good opportunity to coast to a lower speed.

Speedometer speeding
Nighttime driving


AAA's research has found that:


36 percent

of all motor vehicle deaths involving a teen driver took place between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.


22 percent
is the observed increase in the number of nighttime crashes (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) during the 100 Deadliest Days compared to the rest of the year

Traffic on the freeway at night


Because visibility is dramatically reduced, driving at night requires extra caution and experience. That's why every state except Vermont has restrictions on unsupervised teen driving at night (though the exact hours that are prohibited vary from state to state). 


Parents should familiarize themselves with the nighttime driving rules for teens in their state, and make sure their young drivers are following them. They should also make sure their teens are aware of the unique dangers of night driving, such as the perils of drowsy driving and the fact that speeding can lead drivers to outrun their headlights' effective range

Driving on unlit road at night with headlights on
What parents can do

Have teens learn good habits in the classroom ... and in the car

For teens who don’t yet have their licenses, driving school is an important first step toward developing focus behind the wheel. To choose a quality driving school:

  • Ask around.  Check with friends and family about driving schools they’ve used.
  • Call different schools. Ask about their operations, as well as references.
  • Visit several schools. Sit in on a session; examine the vehicles and student materials; and ask how instructors are trained.
  • Focus on quality. Don’t settle for driving schools that advertise quick or easy programs. 

Outside the classroom, parents should set a good example; even teens who are already licensed pick up habits related to speeding and distractions from their parents. 

Create a parent-teen driving agreement

Working out an agreement together is a chance for parents to explain the importance of driving at the appropriate speed, the appropriate time, and distraction-free, as well as to make driving privileges dependent on the teens’ commitment to safety. The signed agreement can be displayed at home as a daily reminder. Take a look at a sample agreement.

Stress that all distractions are dangerous

Even if teens have good cellphone habits and follow the law when it comes to passengers, anything that takes their eyes off the road ahead can be dangerous. Parents should reinforce that trying to find the perfect song or reaching for something in the back seat can also lead to a crash.

Set rules on teen passengers

In most states, thanks to Graduated Driver Licensing laws, there are legal limits on how many young passengers can ride with intermediate-level teen drivers. Parents should ensure that their teens know the law, verify that they are complying, and consider setting their own, more stringent rules.