As the weather gets warmer and schools let out for summer, more teens spend more time behind the wheel than during the rest of the year. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has been dubbed The 100 Deadliest Days for Teens because teens are statistically more likely to be killed in a car accident during this time period than in the rest of the year.
Here’s what you need to know about the 100 Deadliest Days:
What are the main causes of these accidents?
How 2020 was different from prior years.
What 2021 may look like for teen drivers.
What you can do to stay safe on the roads during the 100 Deadliest Days.
Causes of Accidents During the 100 Deadliest Days
Here are some of the most common causes of teen driver accidents during the 100 Deadliest Days.
Inexperience is a cause of accidents that’s difficult to quantify but is evident in the increased risk of teen involvement in fatal crashes, as compared to other age groups. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that the crash rate (on a per-mile-driven basis) is nearly three times higher for teens than for drivers 20 and older.
According to the CDC, 30 percent of male drivers under 20 years old who were involved in fatal crashes in 2018 were speeding. As were 18 percent of female drivers.
Drinking and Driving
Despite the fact that it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol, and that all states have laws against drinking and driving, teens are still involved in fatal crashes due to drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 16 percent of 15-18 year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 had been drinking.
Drivers of all ages get distracted at times, but younger drivers are particularly susceptible. In a recent survey, six out of ten drivers from the Millennial and Gen Z generations admitted to reading texts while driving. According to WeSaveLives.org (a non-profit dedicated to improving highway safety), 60% of teen crashes today are the result of distracted driving.
Fatalities Increased During 2020’s 100 Deadliest Days
2020 was an interesting year for drivers. Traffic volume was down across the board as people followed stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But traffic fatality rates actually increased.
Nationwide data is still being compiled, but cities and states across the country report increased fatality rates in 2020. In Utah, for example, traffic fatalities went up by 70 percent during the 100 Deadliest Days of 2020. Texas saw 3,893 people killed in car crashes in 2020, compared to 3,623 in 2019, despite lower traffic volume in 2020. And in Florida, 3,286 people died in car crashes in 2020, up from 3,191 in 2019.
Initial analysis of the 2020 100 Deadliest Days indicates that multiple factors contributed to the higher fatality rate:
People who are more risk-averse stayed home to avoid exposure to the virus while people who are less risk-averse did not. This led to more risk-taking drivers on the roads.
The lower traffic volume may have made some drivers less cautious than they would have been otherwise.
DUIs were up across much of the country in 2020 as drivers avoided rideshares to avoid exposure to the virus. In San Diego, for example, fatal DUI crashes increased by 33 percent in 2020.
Will this improve as more drivers get back on the roads in 2021?
2021 Is Looking Grim, But We Can Turn It Around
Traffic is returning to normal in the spring of 2021 as more Americans get vaccinated and return to work and school. There may even be some additional traffic as people choose to drive to their vacation destinations rather than fly while the pandemic threat continues. In a 2020 survey, 74 percent of respondents said that their vacation plans would include travel by vehicle rather than plane due to the virus.
But drivers in 2021 are still in a state of transition as we recover from the pandemic. Drivers may still be in the grips of the pandemic depression, drinking more, sleeping less, and less able to focus. Minnesota just recorded its 100th traffic fatality on April 21, 2021; this is the earliest date that Minnesota has hit this sad milestone since 2016.
But increased traffic fatalities don’t need to be a foregone conclusion for the 100 Deadliest Days in 2021. We can turn it around by improving our driving habits, starting today.
Tips for Staying Safe During 2021’s 100 Deadliest Days.
Here are several ways to protect yourself and others on the road during the 100 Deadliest Days of 2021.
Remember your driver’s ed training: follow all posted traffic signs, obey traffic lights, and stick to the speed limit.
Never drink and drive. It’s never worth it. Call an Uber, friend, or family member. Parents: let your teens know that calling you is an option.
Avoid distractions. That means limiting the number of passengers in your car and making your phone unavailable while you’re driving (either by physically placing it out of reach or using an app to lock it while the vehicle is running).
Take a defensive driving course to learn how to avoid accidents due to the bad driving behaviors of other drivers. Defensive driving courses are available online, so you don’t need to risk exposure to the virus or the roadways to complete your course. And you might get a reduced rate on car insurance when you take the initiative to be a safer driver.
Insist on seat belts for yourself and your passengers. In the event of a crash, seat belts can reduce the risk of death by 45 percent and the risk of serious injury by 50% according to the CDC.
The roads may be a dangerous place for teens during the 100 Deadliest Days. But with some preparation and focus, we can minimize the risks for our teen drivers and everyone sharing the road with them.