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It’s the most dangerous time of the year for teen drivers

Summer should be a time to let go, to relax and enjoy life. Teenagers especially should be able to enjoy a break from school, spending time with friends at the beach or in any of San Francisco’s teen-friendly venues. Granted, life is more complicated for the teenager of 2014 than it ever has been for Betty, Veronica and the rest of the gang in the Archie comic books — it isn’t all surfing and hanging at the malt shop.

Far from it, according to researchers: Summer is the deadliest time of year for teen drivers. The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day typically see an uptick in the number of car accidents involving teen drivers. In 2012, for example, almost 1,000 people died in accidents involving teen drivers. More than half of those fatalities were teenagers.

Researchers are not blaming drugs or alcohol for these accidents. They say that one of the most dangerous activities a teen driver can participate in is driving with other teens in the car.

The National Safety Council points out that parents and safety advocates worry about teens texting while driving, but having teenaged passengers is actually more dangerous. Texting takes the driver’s eyes off the road for a few seconds; passengers can be a constant distraction. The council says that the risk of a fatal crash increases by 44 percent or more when a teen driver has passengers in the car.

California is one of the many states that have addressed the issue with graduated driver’s license laws. New drivers are barred from driving with passengers under the age of 20 if there is no licensed driver age 25 or older in the car. New drivers cannot drive at night, either — between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. — without a 25-year-old (or older) licensed driver in the car.

Safety advocates urge parents to set their own rules about carrying passengers as well. And, parents should take steps to ensure that their teens are following those rules and abiding by any state restrictions. Taking it easy over the summer shouldn’t mean easing up on safe driving habits.

Source: CNN, “Parents, beware: These are the 100 deadliest days for teens,” Kelly Wallace, May 23, 2014

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