A recent study shows that teens are likelier to be involved in deadly car crashes during the summer months, and distracted driving may be one reason.

As most people in Roanoke know, teenage drivers experience a significantly higher rate of accidents than older and more experienced motorists. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of accidents given the amount of the driving population that they represent. They also are three times likelier to play a role in fatal car crashes than other drivers are.

Unfortunately, accidents involving teen drivers may be especially likely to occur during the summer driving season. A new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that the 100 days following Memorial Day are a highly dangerous time for these drivers and for other motorists.

Summer driving dangers

As USA Today reports, the AAA Foundation reviewed five years of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data and found that crashes involving teen drivers jump markedly during this period. During the years reviewed, an average of 1,022 people died annually during the so-called "100 Deadliest Days" in accidents involving teen drivers. This increase in deadly accidents, which claimed over 5,000 lives in total, represented a 16 percent jump over the fatality rate observed during other seasons.

There may be a few explanations for this summertime rise in serious car accidents, according to CNN. For teens, driving during summer may differ from driving during other seasons for all of the following reasons:

  • Rather than commuting to school, teens may be driving to new or distant locations on unfamiliar roads, making accidents more likely.
  • Students may have more free time and spend more time driving as a result.
  • Students may be driving more frequently with their friends, which may result in more distracted driving.

The available data suggests that driver inattention may be a significant factor in these summer accidents and in general accidents involving teen drivers.

Top teen distractions

Prior research indicates that the majority of teen driver car accidents involve driver distraction. One study, which reviewed more than 2,200 dashboard camera videos taken over more than seven years, concluded that distraction was a factor in about 58 percent of the crashes. Teens were using cellphones in about 12 percent of these accidents. However, the most common cause of distraction was other passengers; this form of distraction played a role in 15 percent of the observed crashes.

This may seem counterintuitive, but CNN notes that passengers may be more distracting than cellphones for a few reasons. Whereas teen drivers can choose when to use or put down their cellphones, passengers present an almost constant and uncontrollable distraction. Tellingly, the National Safety Council has found that a teen driver's risk of being involved in a fatal crash rises 44 percent when he or she has passengers in the vehicle.

Recourse for accident victims

Tragically, if AAA's research is any indicator, accidents involving teen drivers may harm many people in Virginia this year. When these crashes occur due to driver distraction or other reckless behaviors, victims may have legal recourse. As a result, victims of these accidents may benefit from meeting with an attorney to discuss the circumstances of the accident and potential options for seeking recourse.