100 Deadliest Days: Preventing tragedy among teen drivers

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WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Summer break following a pandemic-plagued school year is finally arriving. While this should be a fun part of the year, it’s one of the most dangerous times for teen drivers.

AAA calls it the “100 Deadliest Days”. A travel expert and a couple of teens are weighing in on the pitfalls that could lead to tragedy.

17-year-old Kaitlyn Smith has been behind the wheel nearly two years. She’s seen when driving gets to be dicey.

“I guess I would have to say when traffic is busier like maybe around the highway or even on, like, these smaller roads coming up when it gets really busy,” Smith told us.

That’s what happens from Memorial Day to Labor Day which AAA calls the 100 Deadliest Days. Based on research from 2010 to 2019, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says 7,000 people died in teen driving-related summertime crashes across the country.

“You have more deaths per day during these summer months when it comes to teen drivers and teen driver crashes,” said Kathleen Zinszer of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

In fact, seven deaths per day or one more daily than outside the 100 Deadliest Days. And drivers ages 16 and 17 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than adult drivers.

“This is not just a problem in Pennsylvania. You know, this is a problem everywhere and there’s more unstructured time behind the wheel during the summer months,” Zinszer told us.

Factors like texting and other distractions, speeding, and not buckling up are all key mistakes many teens make when they first start to drive. So is inexperience which 18-year-old Yashu Bansal recalls when she began driving two years ago.

“I feel that younger drivers are less confident. Like, I used to be a nervous driver,” said Bansal. “You know, this is like anything else. If you haven’t practiced with this, if you don’t have as much experience, you’re not going to be as good,” Zinszer explained.

Unlike teens who may rush to get their license, Smith took her time.

“My parents helped me be a bit more well-prepared. They instilled, like, a lot of confidence because I think the more nervous you are sometimes the harder it is to drive,” she said.

AAA urges parents to model good driving behavior on the road to help ensure their teens practice them, too.

You can get more information on driving pointers for parents or information about teen driver safety at AAA’s website.

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