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Sharp Health News

Teen driving distractions cause ‘100 deadliest days’

June 28, 2017

Teen driving distractions cause ‘100 deadliest days’

Just as The Beach Boys sang about the excitement of loading up their “woody” with their surfboards more than 50 years ago, today’s teens are looking forward to their own summer safari with friends.

Whether they’re driving to the beach, a pool party or their first summer job, the Automobile Association of America (AAA) warns that teen drivers ages 16 to 17 years old are six times as likely as those 18 and over to be involved in a deadly crash. This is especially true during summer months, a time AAA calls the “100 Deadliest Days.”

In the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 15 percent compared to the rest of the year. Researchers at AAA say this is because teens are out of school and spending more time on the road.

Dr. Joe Bellezzo, chief of emergency medicine at Sharp Memorial Hospital, says that distraction is the number one cause of preventable motor vehicle crashes.

“Distraction by music, texting, conversations with friends or by other drivers — all of these distractions are amplified in drivers who are inexperienced,” he says. “This leads to unnecessary and preventable accidents.”

Dr. Bellezzo offers his top three tips for teen drivers during the summer months and year-round:

  1. Put the phone in airplane mode when you get in the car.

  2. Turn on the radio and listen to some music if you are easily distracted.

  3. Keep both hands on the wheel and pay attention.

“I tell teens to plan to do this every single time for just the first year and after that they can do what they like,” he says. “By the time that first year has gone by, they’ve established good habits that are hard to change.”

AAA also advises teens to buckle up and slow down. Experts say that teens who wear a safety belt and adhere to speed limits significantly reduce their risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash.

Parents can play an important role in helping teens be safe and responsible drivers, too. AAA recommends that parents take the following steps before their teen drivers hit the road:

  • Have conversations with your teens early and often about the dangers of distraction and speeding.
  • Teach by example and minimize your own risky behavior when driving.
  • Make a family agreement setting driving rules that all family members who drive will sign and promise to uphold.

“Putting on your seatbelt is so much a part of your driving routine now that you would feel uncomfortable driving without it,” Dr. Bellezzo says. “That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. We were able to change an entire culture of drivers by making something routine and the same can apply to a new set of rules to be followed at all times: the phone goes in airplane mode, listen to the radio, two hands on the wheel.”

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Bellezzo about the dangers of distracted driving by teens for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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