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Distracted driving: The dangers of teen driving in the summer

All across the country, teenagers look forward to summer break and a respite from the daily grind of school, homework and extracurricular activities. While it's tempting to hand the keys over to your teenager and enjoy getting a break from playing chauffeur, it's also important to understand the risks.

According to statistics from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, summer break is the worst time of the year for fatal car accidents involving teenagers. The so called "100 Deadliest Days" begin on Memorial Day, and more than 5,000 people - all associated with teenage driver accidents - have lost their lives during this time period in the last five years.

The 100 deadliest days

Why are teenage drivers an issue? A study from AAA found that almost 60 percent of car accidents involving a teenager driver were caused by some type of distraction. Most parents are concerned with their teens texting and driving, and this is certainly an issue - 12 percent of crashes were caused by a cell phone distraction such as texting, talking or checking email - but it's not the only one. Fifteen percent of crashes were caused by talking to or being distracted by another passenger in the car, and 11 percent were caused by the driver looking at or operating something within the vehicle, such as the radio.

What you can do

While it may be tempting to think that your child knows not to text and drive or be otherwise distracted, the statistics show otherwise. Almost 50 percent of teen drivers said that they have read an email or text message within the last month, and this isn't likely to decrease soon. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association found that the number of teen drivers using a cell phone while driving quadrupled from 2007 to 2014.

The most important thing you can do is talk with your teens and make sure they understand the dangers of distracted driving, from cell phone use to having too many people in the car, which can increase peer pressure and dangerous driving behaviors.

Also, remind your teen that driving is a privilege. If you don't believe that your child is mature enough or she fails to follow your driving rules, you may want to consider hanging up the keys for a while.

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