WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Memorial Day is often viewed as the unofficial kickoff to summer, but the holiday also kicks off a dangerous streak for teen drivers.
Over the past five years, the days following Memorial Day have become known as the “100 deadliest days for teen drivers,” according to research by AAA.
The research found that over the last five years an average of 1,022 people died each year in crashes involving teen drivers during the “100 deadliest days.”
The average number of deaths involving 16 to 19 year olds increased 16 percent per day compared to other days of the year.
KSN talked with Kansas Highway Patrol’s Trooper Ben Gardner about what is causing the dramatic increase in fatal accidents among teenagers during this time of year.
It comes down to more people with less experience on the roads combined with a number of distractions, Gardner said.
“They’re new drivers so there’s an opportunity for them to make errors just driving a vehicle,” he said. “You gain skills by driving and in the beginning you lack some of the basic things that come with time.”
AAA teamed up with researchers at the University of Iowa to analyze the moments leading up to a crash in more than 2,200 videos of teen drivers.
Of those crashes, 15 percent could be attributed to interacting with other passengers in the car.
Texting, talking on or simply using a phone in one way or another led to 12 percent of the crashes analyzed and finally, 11 percent can be credited to other distractions in the car.
Parents can play a role in preventing fatal crashes among teens by simply having a conversation, Gardner said.
“It’s really important for teenagers, for parents, for those that have an ability to speak to those (teens) of those topics to be prepared and make sure they’re making good choices,” he said.
Aside from limiting distractions, Gardner told KSN teens should know they can avoid difficulty areas as such as large highways or four-way stops as they learn to drive.
For Gardner, who has a teenage son of his own, the subject hits home.
“I myself, have thought about what role I have and I always speak to him, things he needs to be aware of and it needs to come well before the time they get their driver’s license to preach and to promote certain driving habits,” Gardner said.
For more ways to talk to your teen about safe driving habits, click here.