Parent involvement is key to reducing risk for teens behind the wheel

  • Written by AAA of Washington

Prom/graduation and summer months are deadliest for teen drivers and passengers

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows a strong association between the number and age of passengers present in a vehicle driven by a teen and the risk of a teen driver dying in a traffic crash.

The report, “Teen Driver Risk in Relation to Age and Number of Passengers,” found that the likelihood of a 16- or 17-year-old driver being killed in a crash, per mile driven, increases with each additional young passenger in the vehicle. Compared to driving with no passengers, a 16- or 17-year-old driver’s fatality risk:

• Increases 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21 (and no older passengers)

• Doubles when carrying two passengers younger than 21 (and no older passengers)

• Quadruples when carrying three or more passengers younger than 21 (and no older passengers)

Conversely, carrying at least one passenger aged 35 or older cuts a teen driver’s risk of death by 62 percent, and risk of involvement in any police-reported crash by 46 percent, highlighting the protective influence that parents and other adults have in the car.

“Washington’s Intermediate Drivers Licensing (IDL) law requires that drivers in their first 6 months of driving have no passengers with them who are under age 20, unless immediate family members. This new study supports the importance of having this driving restriction as part of our IDL law,” said Jennifer Cook, spokesperson for AAA Washington. “As we approach prom and graduation season as well as summer, when deaths due to vehicle crashes for teens peak, AAA urges parents of teens to get involved, practice in-vehicle techniques, and set clear rules.

Parent involvement is key to reducing risk for teens behind the wheel.”

Approaching deadliest time of year for teen drivers and passengers

Deadly traffic crashes increase for teens during the prom/graduation and summer months of May, June, July and August.

Summer is the deadliest time of year for teen drivers and passengers, with five of the top 10 deadliest days of the year for teens occurring between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays, according to an analysis of crash data completed by AAA. The 10 deadliest days for teen drivers and passengers are January 21, May 20, May 23, June 10, July 4, July 9, August 8, August 14, September 26 and November 11, with July 4 being the deadliest day of all.

“When school’s out, teens have more opportunities to drive or ride in cars and be out late at night with other teens — a deadly mix,” said Cook. “With the majority of the most dangerous days falling during the traditional summer vacation months, parents must realize that there is no summer break from safety and be vigilant about remaining involved and establishing driving rules with their teens.”

... In Washington state, between 2006 and 2010, a total of 291 teen (13-19 years) motor vehicle drivers and passengers died as a result of crashes.

The most lethal month for teen crash deaths in Washington during this period was August, when 73 (11.4 percent) deaths occurred.

The highest risk time of day for teen traffic deaths was 12 a.m. – 4 a.m., when nearly one quarter of such deaths occurred (24.6 percent). (Statistics provided by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.)

For specific details on Washington’s Intermediate Drivers Licensing restrictions, parent tips for teaching their teen to drive, practical advice, resources and much more, go to  AAA’s website,, is the most comprehensive teen driving website available. It offers information for both teens and parents of teens, including a parent-teen driving contract, state specific information on licensing, sample licensing test questions, tips, insurance FAQ, and much more.

AAA suggests five tips for parents to keep teen drivers safe. More information on all of these tips, including a sample driving contract, can be found at

• Limit the number of teen passengers and time as a passenger.

• Restrict night driving.

• Establish a parent-teen driving

• Become an effective driving coach.

• Restrict driving and eliminate trips without purpose.

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