WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, August 28, 2018) ––As approximately 2.4 million students across Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, head back to school for the 2018-2019 academic year, many will be mourning the loss of their classmates and fellow students who did not survive fatal crashes during the 100 Deadliest Days of the year for teen drivers and their passengers. Over the summer months at least seven teenage drivers or vehicle passengers were killed in traffic crashes in Maryland and Virginia. Two Fairfax County teenagers lost their lives in separate fatal crashes in June and July in Fairfax County, where today is the first day of classes.
Classmates are mourning a 17-year-old high school junior in Fairfax County who succumbed to injuries sustained after he reportedly lost control of the vehicle he was driving and smashed into a tree. A member of class council, the lacrosse team, and a coach of the 10th-grade powder puff team, the junior class member at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia was also hailed as “excellent student.” Crash investigators believe speed was a factor in the deadly crash involving two other students, as it is in nearly 30 percent of all fatal crashes involving teen drivers. “The 2005 Jeep was traveling westbound on Fairfax Station Road near Colewood Estates Road around 1:15 p.m. when the car left the roadway and hit a tree,” according to detectives and crash investigators with the Fairfax County Police Department.
On June 9, a 15-year-old Burke teenager was killed in a single vehicle crash in Lorton, Virginia that left four other persons injured including two other 15 year-old passengers. The deceased teen was also a passenger in the vehicle. The vehicle they were riding in was reportedly driven by a 14-year-old unlicensed driver when the vehicle left the road, struck a tree, and flipped, according to the Fairfax County Police. The single-vehicle crash reportedly occurred on Furnace Road near Lorton Road and Dairy Road.
From 2015 to 2017, at least thirteen area high school students, including four teenagers during 2017 alone, were killed in crashes on area roadways including six current or recent high school varsity football players; five in Maryland and another in Northern Virginia, and two brothers who perished in a fatal crash on their way to school in Northern Virginia. An even larger number were injured in roadway crashes that occurred on summertime afternoons, nights and weekends that were designed to be idyllic and unspoiled. Many of their fallen classmates were inexperienced teen drivers who were behind the wheel during some of the most dangerous driving days of the year.
Summer is ending soon for the youngest drivers around. It is time to head back to school and head off to college, and many “young relatively inexperienced drivers” will be behind the wheel and tooling around on high school campuses and college campuses too. In fact, “For many teenagers, going back to school means increased time behind the wheel,” according to research by the Ford Motor Company. “More than 80 percent of teen drivers have stated that driving to school is their primary reason for being behind the wheel.”
“Before and during the school year parents must set household rules about driving, educate their teens about risky driving behavior, and inculcate the ‘Five No’s.’ This includes “no cell phones while driving, no extra passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, and no driving or riding without a seat belt,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Life tells us that ‘more is caught than is taught.’ Teach by example and minimize your own risky behavior when behind the wheel.”
Contrary to some popular opinions, “a driver’s license is one of the biggest status symbols among high school students, and getting a driver’s license makes the adolescent feel more independent,” according to the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). As the school year begins, these teen-involved crashes are a sobering reminder that ‘Half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before graduating from high school,” according to the National Safety Council. What is more, “teens are more likely to get into a crash during the first six to twelve months of driving increasing the risk of injuries to his/her passengers,” research reveals. “Most teens killed in crashes were riding in a vehicle driven by another teen.”
Parents should make sure the teenage driver in their households “catch a lot of ZZZ’s. In fact, “Many high schools schedule students for the early shift—and that means teen drivers are hitting the road at 6:30-7:30 A.M.,” explains TeenDriving.Co. “Make sure you go to bed early enough to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Try to unplug from all your devices at least an hour before bedtime to relax and fall asleep faster. If you’re well rested you’ll be a better driver–and do better at school as well.”
· “Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 P.M. to 7 P.M.,” warns the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
· Nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen behind the wheel, reports the AAA Foundation.
· On top of that, distracted driving among teens is a much greater problem than previously thought, with passengers and cell phones being the most common forms of distraction.
· In addition, “remind your teen drivers about the importance of being extra careful in and around school zones,” area law enforcement officers warn.
Given this, AAA recommends:
· States should review and potentially strengthen their Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws to provide as much protection as possible for teens.
· Parents should become effective in-car coaches, set a positive example, make informed decisions about access to a vehicle and manage their teen’s overall driving privileges.
As to summertime teen driving dangers, more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2016 during the 100 Deadliest Days, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, explains AAA. That is an average of 10 people per day – a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year, according to data analyzed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. As the school year dawns, AAA stresses the importance of preparing and educating inexperienced teen drivers. “Through education, proper training, and involvement of parents, we can help our young drivers to become better and safer drivers, which in turn keeps the roads safer for everyone.” said Dr. David Yang, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director.
Most crashes involving 16 to 17 year old drivers are caused by speeding or driving at an unsafe speed for conditions, driving inattention or distractions, failing to yield the way to other drivers, following other vehicles too closely and driver inexperience. Even so, “most teens and their passengers killed or seriously injured in crashes were not buckled up.” Strengthening teen driving laws to increase roadway safety is a top priority for AAA. The Association’s advocacy efforts are helping to protect teens by working to pass graduated driver licensing laws, including seat belt requirements, wireless device bans and nighttime driving and passenger restrictions, in states across the country.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and nearly 78,000 members in the District of Columbia. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit http://aaa.com