AAA: Memorial Day to Labor Day deadliest time for teen drivers

Driving instructors tell parents to know teens' habits behind the wheel

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the number of deadly wrecks involving teens climbs, compared to the rest of the year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

A study by AAA found the three months are the deadliest for inexperienced teen drivers ages 16 and 17.

More than 1,000 people were killed in crashes nationwide involving teen drivers during the summer of 2016. That's up 14 percent compared to the rest of the year.

As school lets out for the summer, driving instructors are urging parents to be more aware of their teens' driving behaviors.

Statistics show 60 percent of young drivers killed in crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt, and distracted driving plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes. 

“You’re not paying attention to what’s coming up: pedestrians, bicyclists, other cars, red lights, stop lights," Sgt. Darren Dillon, from the Orlando Police Department, said.

A recent study reveals speed and nighttime driving are significant factors contributing to deadly crashes during the summer. Of all deadly crashes involving teen drivers, 36 percent occurred between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and 29 percent were speed-related.

Dennis Satornino, owner and instructor at My E-Z Pass Driving and Traffic School in Jacksonville, said it's up to parents to prepare and educate their inexperienced teen drivers for the most dangerous driving days of the year.

"It's the scariest thing in the world, because these kids don't realize it, but one of them may not be here tomorrow,”  Satornino said. "Parents should be more involved with what their kids are doing, (like) how many kids they allow to ride with them in the car. You get five girls to ride in the car with them, you know, selfies, texting, pictures and boom."

Teens aren’t able to process things fast enough, and parents need to realize a car can be a 4,000-pound weapon, said Mark Allen, a manager at All Florida Safety Institute.

Speeding, distractions and a lack of seat belts are the three reasons teens are at risk, according to AAA. But Allen said these crashes can be prevented.

“Take those phones and shut them off,” Allen said. “Put them in the glove box. Put them on silent. That way, you can check later to see what happened, but things can wait. We're not in that big of a hurry. You don't need that information right now, and someone doesn't need you that bad right now.”

AAA encourages parents to: 

  • Have discussions about risky driving, such as speeding, distractions and driving under the influence
  • Teach by example by being aware of your own behavior behind the wheel
  • Create a parent-teen driving agreement and enforce the rules that are set

AAA advocacy groups are working to strengthen teen driving laws, including seat belt requirements, wireless device bans and passenger restrictions, all in an effort to increase roadway safety. 

In Florida, there are a few driving restrictions for teens. A 16-year-old licensed driver is not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. A license holder who is 17 years old is not allowed to drive between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Outside of those times, the teens must be driving to or from work or accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older.

TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools, including licensing and state law information, to help prepare parents and teens for not only the dangerous summer driving season, but also all year long.