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100 Deadliest Days - Teen Driver Fatality Rate Increases 43% from Memorial Day to Labor DayThis is a guest blog post from the Highway Safety Division (HSD) of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS).

Summer is here. For many in Massachusetts, it’s time for beaches, barbecues, and fun. But for teen drivers, summer is also known as the 100 Deadliest Days.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, fatalities in teen driver crashes increase by 43 percent. School’s out, so more teens are heading out on road trips, beach days, and other adventures. That means instead of the usual school run, teens will find themselves on roads they aren’t as familiar with, and in conditions they don’t usually drive in.

Gov. Charlie Baker and HSD are working together this summer to get the word out about the dangers that teen drivers face and ways parents can encourage safer driving habits with help from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).

What Are the Dangers Teens Face on the Road?

When your teen gets behind the wheel this summer, there are many factors that can increase their risk of a crash.

  • Other Teens — One of the biggest dangers, especially in the summer, is when teens drive with other teens. Studies show that when other teens are in the car, new drivers are more likely to take risks behind the wheel, like speeding, texting, and driving under the influence. In fact, having other teens in the car increases the risk of a fatal crash by at least 44 percent. To reduce this risk, Massachusetts’ Junior Operator Law restricts whom teens can drive with.
  • Drowsy and Night Driving — During the summer, teens tend to stay up later and get behind the wheel when they’re too tired, which can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. In Massachusetts, teens can’t legally drive between 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
  • Seat Belts — Despite growing up wearing seat belts, teens often don’t use them when they start driving on their own. In the United States, more than half of teens killed in crashes in 2013 weren’t wearing seat belts. Make sure that everyone in your family knows to wear their seat belts every time, no matter how short the drive.
  • Drugs and Alcohol — Driving under the influence is dangerous at any age. In 2013, 17 percent of drivers ages 16–20 who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher.
  • Speeding — Speeding can seem like a minor offense, but it can make a big difference in a crash. In 2013, 29 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal car crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.
  • Distracted Driving — Teens spend a lot of time on their phones, but texting and other distractions can increase their risk of a fatal crash. In Massachusetts, it’s illegal for teens under 18 to use cellphones while driving, and it’s illegal for anyone to text and drive. Help keep your child off the phone — remember not to call or text when you know they’re driving.

What Can Parents Do to Help Their Teens?

In addition to learning the habits that can put your child at risk on the road, there is another step you can take to help your teen stay safe.

  • Sign a Driving Contract — Make sure your kids understand the consequences of breaking your rules — and the law. Studies show that teens who sign a driving agreement are less likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviors. The RMV has a template driving contract that you and your teen can fill out together.

In Massachusetts, teens can lose their driving privileges for a whole year for violating the Junior Operator Law. Talk to your teens about the dangers of impaired, fatigued, and distracted driving, as well as driving with their friends in the car. And always let them know that if they are ever unsure about driving or getting in someone else’s car, you’re just a phone call away.

Questions about how to teach your teens safe driving habits this summer? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @MassGov or @MAHighwaySafety.

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