The Deadliest Days for California’s Teens to Hit the Road

For California’s teens, summertime means a release from the school. Until school resumes in the fall, they’re largely free to enjoy the sunshine, long days, and the company of their friends. But parents will want to make sure their teens are careful when they hit the road because we’re neck-deep in the “100 Deadliest Days.”

According to the AAA, the stretch from Memorial Day to Labor Day marks a spike in car crash deaths involving teen drivers. In 2016, the period saw a 14% rise in car crash deaths compared to the rest of the year, and every year sees a similar increase.

Inside the spike

The yearly rise in deadly car crashes owes partly to the number of teens and young adults on the roads. But that’s not the only factor involved. As the AAA notes, the summer brings changes to the way teens drive, including:

  • They’re more likely to joyride without a specific destination.
  • They travel in larger groups, making it easier to get distracted.
  • They stay out and drive later at night.
  • They drink.

Drinking and distracted driving are the biggest culprits. A separate report from the AAA found that 58% of all teen crashes owed to distracted driving. But phones weren’t the main distractions; passengers were. Meanwhile, even though teens can’t legally drink, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that alcohol played a role in nearly one out of every five crashes involving teens.

The deadliest days are still ahead

Memorial Day may now be fading in our rearview mirrors, but the summer’s deadliest days may still be waiting down the road. The most recent data pulled from the NHTSA offers a somewhat surprising look at the times California’s drivers get into fatal crashes:

  • Months: July was the deadliest month in 2017. June was second. August was eighth, but the three months combined saw a total of 871 deaths.
  • Days: Not much surprise here. Saturday and Friday were the most dangerous days to drive, followed by Sunday.
  • Hours: The deadliest hours were at night, but maybe not as late as you’d expect. More Californians died in crashes from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. than later at night. The safest hours were between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Drive safely in 2019

How can you use this information? As a parent, you might talk to your teen about cutting down on the potential risks, including:

  • Drinking: Your teen should understand the dangers of mixing cars and alcohol.
  • Distracted driving: Remember that your teen’s friends are likely the biggest distraction.
  • Timing: Drive as little as possible after 8 p.m. This doesn’t mean no driving allowed, but that the car should go from point A to point B with as little joyriding as possible.

It’s likely your teen won’t enjoy sitting down for a heart-to-heart about safe driving, but that doesn’t make the conversation any less worthwhile. If all goes well, your teen will live to have the same conversation the next year… and for many years after that.