Summer is in full swing and there are more teen drivers on Missouri roadways this time of the year.
Click to hear KMZU’s Mike Stone talk with Highway Patrol Sergent Collin Stosberg:
Press Release from the Missouri Highway Patrol
Summer is in full swing. School is out, and trips to the lake, hanging out with friends, summer jobs, and camps, all place more teen drivers on Missouri’s roadways. This is why this time of the year is the most deadly for the teenage driver. In fact, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2012, 1,000 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers and more than 550 of those killed were teens.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., and teens crash at three times the rate of more experienced drivers. Also, in Missouri, more teens are killed in June, than any other month of the year, and approximately 71% of teens killed in traffic crashes weren’t wearing seat belts. Possible reasons for the spike in these crashes during the summer months include:
* Summer driving tends to be more recreational and not as purposeful, such as driving to see friends or to the lake and traveling on roads they haven’t driven before, rather than driving to school or work. Parents are encouraged to limit teens’ driving to essential trips and establish guidelines for their child.
* Teens could be carrying friends more frequently and passengers increase the risk of a fatal crash involving a teen driver by at least 44 percent. Forty-three states currently restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one young passenger in their vehicle. Missouri’s Graduated Driver License law requires that all first-time drivers between 15 and 18 years old complete a period of driving with a licensed driver (instruction permit), and restricted driving (intermediate license), before getting a full driver license. If the permit holder is under age 16, the licensed driver occupying the seat beside the permit holder for the purpose of giving instruction while driving must be a qualified person, grandparent, or qualified driving instructor, or a person at least 25 years of age who has been licensed for a minimum of three years and has received written permission from the parent or legal guardian. At age 16, the driver may apply for an intermediate license. The intermediate license allows the driver to drive alone except during a late night curfew (1-5 a.m.). The driver and passengers must use seat belts, be free of alcohol and drugs, and obey the traffic laws. During the first six months, you may not operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger who is under 19 years old and who is not a member of your immediate family. After the first six months, you may not operate a motor vehicle with more than three passengers who are under 19 years old and who are not members of your immediate family. At age 18, the intermediate license holder may apply for a full driver license.
* Teens may stay out later at night, when the crash risk is higher. According to AAA research, a teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles when driving at night and more than half of nighttime crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. Driving at night may be more challenging to the teenage driver due to a combination of poor visibility, slower response time due to fatigue, and lack of experience driving under such conditions. Also, teens need more sleep than adults. But, their lifestyle often leads them to get less sleep than they need. Driving when you’re tired can be very dangerous. If your body needs sleep, it will go to sleep and, it’s impossible to tell exactly when you might nod off.
* With warmer weather and clearer conditions, teens may be tempted to speed. Speed continues to be one of the leading contributors to fatal traffic crashes in Missouri and approximately one-third of all the traffic deaths in the U.S. each year are due to driving over the speed limit. Speed reduces the amount of available time needed to avoid a crash, increases the likelihood of crashing, and increasing the severity of a crash once it occurs. The faster you drive, the less control you have over your vehicle and the less time you have to react in an emergency. Young drivers often have an attitude of, “It’ll never happen to me,” and tend to ignore the risks they are taking behind the wheel. Running red lights or pulling out too soon into on-coming traffic can have tragic consequences. Passing in no-passing zones or driving too fast on winding, curving roads while ignoring the possibility of traffic or dangers over the next hill or around the next curve can cause loss of control. Adjust your speed for conditions and assume there is a hazard ahead that you aren’t aware of yet.
* Teens may be more easily distracted while driving. Inattention is the leading cause of all traffic crashes in Missouri. The popularity of mobile devices has had some dangerous consequences, which are linked to the significant increase of distracted driving traffic crashes. Missouri state law requires that no person 21 years of age or younger operating a moving motor vehicle upon the highways shall, by means of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device, send, read, or write a text message or electronic message. In addition to the cell phone, a teen’s driving behavior is altered because they may be paying more attention to passengers than to the road ahead, eating and drinking, listening to loud music, applying makeup, looking at things out the window instead of at the road, adjusting the radio or loading CDs. All of these distractions can take a teen’s eyes off the road just long enough for a dangerous problem to creep up unnoticed. Teens who get distracted or who drive too fast often find themselves running off the side of the roadway. The natural instinct in that situation is to jerk the wheel (overcorrect) to get back onto the roadway. But, that can be the most dangerous thing to do. If you turn your vehicle too sharply, it can result in a skid and lead to the vehicle flipping over. Overcorrecting can also cause you to turn into the other lane, into on-coming traffic. If you feel yourself leaving the roadway, grip the wheel firmly, take your foot off the gas, and gently apply the brakes to slow down. Once you have slowed to a safe speed, check for traffic behind you and then re-enter the roadway. This is a maneuver that should be practiced and drivers should think about what they would do in this type of emergency. That way, they will be less likely to give in to the natural instinct to overcorrect.
* Teens are less likely to wear their seat belt. Driving or riding in an automobile can be dangerous. Na-tionally, motor vehicle crashes kill tens of thousands of drivers and passengers, and injure nearly 2 million each year. The chance of being in an auto crash in your lifetime is virtually 100 percent. On average, you’ll be in a traffic crash every 10 years, and you have a one in 50 chance of being killed. No mat¬ter how safely you drive, you can’t control other drivers. Seat belts are your best protection against drivers who are careless or have been drinking. It takes about three seconds to fasten your seat belt when you get into a car or truck to travel. Using lap/shoulder belts cuts your chances of being killed or seriously injured in a crash 45-50 percent. For the teenage driver, seat belts must be worn by the driver and all passengers when the driver is operating the vehicle under a driving permit or intermediate license. Noncompliance with the seat belt law by a permit or intermediate driver is a violation of the graduated driver’s license restrictions and could result in fines, court costs, and license suspension.
* More teenage drivers are on the roads with less supervision. Parents are instrumental and play a significant role in helping their teen become a safer driver. During the summer months, teens are more care free and excited to have the freedom to drive around, so it’s imperative that parents help keep safety foremost in their children’s minds. Studies have shown risky driving behavior, traffic violations, and crashes to be lower among teens whose parents set limits on their initial driving behavior. The most dangerous time in a teen’s life is the first 12 months after receiving a driver’s license, according to the National Safety Council. A parent riding at least 30 minutes a week with their teen driver, even after he or she gets a license, can drastically reduce their chance of being involved in a traffic crash.
Summer is an especially deadly season for the teenage driver. However, it can also offer the perfect opportunity for teens to learn how to drive safer and can be the best time for new teen drivers to gain experience with their parent, who can share their wisdom from many years of driving.