Summer Sees Rise In Teen Crashes
Highway Patrol urges caution as ‘100 Deadliest Days’ begin for newbies behind the wheel
By: Eyragon Eidam, Staff Writer
High school graduation and the start of summer vacation signal an exciting time in the lives of teenagers; unfortunately, it also signals the start of the deadliest time to be a young driver.
With youth behind the wheel and friends in tow, the summer months typically mean an increase in the number of driving disasters for teenagers and the motorists around them.
According to statistics released by AAA, fatal and non-fatal crashes have decreased during the period they have deemed “100 Deadliest Days” in the last 20 years, but they warn the risk is far from eliminated. Whether at the hands of inexperience, distraction or intoxication, teen drivers can find themselves in life-changing situations in the blink of an eye.
And teens are not the only ones sharing the road-bound risks. Of crashes involving teen drivers, 66 percent of those in other vehicles are killed and 67 percent are injured, according to AAA.
Sofia Hotlen, owner, operator and instructor at Sofia Hotlen Driving School, said she urges her students to drive without too many influencing outside factors, such as mood, weather or vehicle mechanical issues.
She also encourages parents to be engaged with their teen’s learning process. Even after a young driver has earned a provisional driver’s license, Hotlen said parents should make sure their children are adhering to the rules of the road.
Fifteen-year-old Allison Loy, of Auburn, is the first of her group of friends to be learning those rules. Though she won’t be able to use her Bluetooth device until she is 18 years old, Loy said she won’t be answering calls or texts while she is behind the wheel.
Under California law minors are prohibited from all types of cell phone use – even hands-free devices are not permitted — when they are driving.
Officer Martin Oliveros, with the California Highway Patrol Valley Division, said the numbers of teen drunk driving incidents has decreased throughout the state, only to make way for accidents caused by distracted driving.
The proliferation of ever-ready social media updates, text messages and phone calls on-the-go are a constant and dangerous distraction for carefree youth.
“Everything is at their fingertips,” he said.
Much like the push to get drivers and their passengers to conform to new seatbelt laws in 1986, Oliveros said education and enforcement will be invaluable to reducing injury and fatality accidents in younger drivers.
Oliveros said the CHP is working with outside organizations to bring educational programs, like “Every 15 Minutes” to teens and schools. “Every 15 Minutes” gives students an up-close look at the dangers of drinking and driving.