Experts urge caution saying more teen drivers die in summer


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Fourth of July marks the middle of what is known as the ‘100 deadliest days of summer.’ It’s a time between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 21%.

According to AAA, new teen drivers between the ages of 16-17 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash. The agency also found distracted driving is a factor in nearly 60% of teen crashes and 60% of teen drivers killed in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt. Lastly, they’ve reported speeding as a major factor in nearly 30% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Lieutenant Stacey Heatherly said the Knoxville district is already up 27 fatalities when compared to this time in 2020. “With fatalities being up so much, we’re seeing a rise in some teen fatalities in those younger drivers,” Lt. Heatherly said. “We’re also seeing a rise in them not wearing their seatbelts, speeding, even being impaired.”

The fear is these numbers will only get worse with some major summer holidays ahead.

“You’ve got a holiday coming up, the Fourth of July, that is the second deadliest holiday of the year,” said Randy Jenkins with A+ DUI & Defensive Driving Schools in Knoxville. “People are out drinking, under the influence, which can be other than alcohol, it can be fatigued driving, it can be prescription medications.”

Jenkins recommended setting a strict curfew of 9 p.m. He also said it’s important parents remind their kids of the dangers of distracted driving. He said parents can also lead by example and make sure the entire family is wearing a seatbelt at all times. Lastly, he said it’s a good idea to avoid heavily congested routes when possible.

“I think the most important thing to remember for young people is that driving is the most dangerous thing they’ll ever do,” said Jenkins.

Lieutenant Heatherly said teen drivers need to keep their focus on the road, be mindful of what’s going on around them, and slow down. “It’s hot, traffic, just cool it down, take your time and enjoy the ride,” Heatherly said.

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