In the U.S., traffic fatalities have reached record lows. Unfortunately, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that car crashes are still the #1 killer of Americans age 1 to 34.
But wait, it gets worse: historically speaking, one of the worst days for traffic fatalities is next Wednesday, July 4. In fact, it's the deadliest day on average for America's teens, and it's not much better for their fellow drivers.
Between 2006-2010, approximately 800 people were killed in car crashes. And if IIHS predictions are correct, an additional 140 people will be added to that grim toll this year. Roughly 10% of those fatalities will be teenage drivers.
Advice for parents
If you've got young drivers in your family, you've probably had numerous talks with them about motor safety. Now would probably be good time to bring up the subject again. After all, you were a teen once, right? Did you really listen to mom and dad the first time they said anything?
- Remind them about the dangers of texting and driving. Hopefully, they've also heard this from their teachers, friends, TV commercials, and a host of other sources -- but of course, that doesn't mean they've tuned in. In extreme cases, you might want to install an app like PhoneGuard on their cell phones, just to ensure your kids are paying attention.
- Remind them about other distractions. Teens may think they're paying attention to the road when they're not SMSing their besties, but eating, putting on makeup, and chatting with friends are just as distracting -- and dangerous.
- Remind them about good (and legal) driving habits, like using signal lights to change lanes. Failing to do so can be as dangerous as trying to text and drive -- possibly worse.
- Remind them about the importance of designated drivers. Yes, in America, teens are technically too young to be hitting the sauce, but come on: did that stop you? We're not suggesting that you encourage underage drinking, but stressing the importance of designated drivers can't hurt, especially if your kids are in college and hanging out with the over-21 set.
- Remind them of what to do if their car conks out. A broken timing belt may not cause your teen to collide with another car, but it can just as easily set them up for trouble. Scores of people are killed alongside roadways each year -- and the figure doesn't improve on holidays associated with boozy backyard barbecues. If you need a refresher, here are seven tips to keep your kid (or anyone else) safe in such emergencies.
We know that you'll have have to repeat these items a few times, and even then, there's no guarantee that you'll get much of a response. But psychologists have show again and again that teens hear more than they let on, so keep talking.
And while you're at it, you should probably go over these guidelines with others in your family, because only 10% of July 4 fatalities are likely to be teens. Let's keep an eye out for everyone this holiday.
Got any other great tips for staying safe on July 4? Feel free to share them in the comments below.