Summer, teen drivers and texting: a deadly combination

Published June 20, 2019

Texting while driving_cropped

Personal Insurance Account Executive 

For all the pleasures summer offers — longer days, warmer weather, greater opportunity for a wide range of outdoor activities — the season also can be deadly, particularly on the roads.

Summer comprises the year's peak driving months, with more people behind the wheel than in any other season — many with relatively little driving experience, often in unfamiliar territory and, far too frequently, distracted by a hand-held device. The season also includes three of the five holidays around which spikes in highway crash fatality rates typically spike: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day (Christmas and New Year's are the others).

It's no wonder AAA refers to the period from Memorial Day through Labor Day as the "100 Deadliest Days," for teen drivers in particular. 

During the five-year period of 2013-2017, AAA reports, almost 3,500 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers, with primary contributing factors including speeding (28 percent), drinking and driving (17 percent), and distraction (9 percent).

Cross-generational risks

While the seasonis especially hazardous to teens, the risk-control experts at Travelers note, summer heightens risks to drivers of all ages. In a blog post titled "4 Summer Driving Hazards to Be Aware Of," Travelers details hazards created by:

  • road construction projects
  • increased motorcycle traffic
  • bicyclists
  • distracted pedestrians.

Travelers, which offers an extensive library of safety pages on its website, also cites two particular groups of summer motorists who pose dangers: tourists unfamiliar with local roads and, of course, young, inexperienced drivers.

The scourge of distracted driving

It's those young, inexperience drivers who are most likely to engage in one of modern America's most dangerous activities: distracted driving.

As defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving." In 2017, according to the NHTSA, 3,166 people died as the result of distraction-affected crashes, including 229 teens ages 15-19.

The 2017 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) shows some improvement, with handheld cell phone use declining from a high of 6.2 percent of all drivers in 2007 to 2.9 percent in 2017, and visible manipulation of handheld devices declining slightly from 2.2 percent in 2014 and 2015 to 2.0 percent in 2017.

But, according to the survey, the most frequent visible manipulation of handheld devices is by people ages 16-24, with 3.9 percent of drivers in that age group committing the offense in 2017, down from a high of 4.9 percent in 2015.

That rate is still much, much too high.

"Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds," the NHTSA reports. "At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed."

What the law says

Most states and U.S. territories prohibit texting while driving, including all six New England states, and increasing numbers are banning use of hand-held devices altogether. Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont each has a version of a hands-free law, while in Massachusetts, the state House and Senate have approved similar bills prohibiting use of hand-held devices by drivers, except when the device requires a single touch to enable hands-free mode.

"After fifteen years of filing and tirelessly pushing legislation to ban such dangerous behavior, Beacon Hill is finally ready to end the tragedies occurring on our roadways," Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford told the Boston Globe after the Senate unanimously passed its bill on June 6.

Laws regarding teen drivers are generally more restrictive than for more experienced drivers, including in Massachusetts.

What parents can do

PARENT-TEENIf you're the parent of a teen driver, you've probably already discussed the dangers of distracted driving and established rules about using a device while driving. But have you reinforced your message by putting those rules in writing and having your teen driver agree to follow them?

Multiple insurance carriers Sylvia Group works with offer parent-teen driver agreements. One of the best is from Pure, a company specializing in coverage for families of high net worth. The agreement includes sections on:

  • obeying rules of the road
  • maintaining focus while driving
  • respecting laws pertaining to drugs and alcohol
  • demonstrating responsible driving behavior.

In addition, the agreement outlines restrictions and penalties, which parents may modify as their teen becomes more experienced and demonstrates responsibility.

To obtain your copy of Pure's parent-teen driver agreement, click on the image at right.


About Gorete Cadieux and Sylvia Group

Gorete Cadieux_editedWith more than three decades of experience serving the personal insurance needs of Sylvia Group clients, Gorete Cadieux works with multiple companies to find the best available coverage at a price that makes the most sense for your budget. Using SPS — the Sylvia Protection System — she takes a consultative approach to working with clients, enabling them to make informed, educated decisions about their insurance policies.

CONTACT GORETE

Sylvia Group helps businesses and individuals protect their future by designing insurancebenefits and financial planning programs. We’re a locally owned agency known for our commitment to our clients and our community, as well for our industry expertise. Founded in New Bedford, MA, in 1950, headquartered in neighboring Dartmouth, and serving businesses and individuals throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and beyond, Sylvia Group is certified as a Woman Owned Business Enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office and has the distinction of being the first six-time recipient of the Five Star designation awarded by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) for all-around agency excellence. 

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