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The 100 Deadliest Days

It’s Memorial Day and this weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer, whether you’re firing up your grill for the first time, opening your pool, or heading back to your campground. Millions of Americans will be hitting the road to ring in the summer season.

The Other Side of Summer

However, this also kicks off the start of “The 100 Deadliest Days.”  This period of time is often reflected back on by many teens as a joyous period where they have less school, less work, prom, and graduation. Sadly, a large percentage of these teens may not have the chance to reflect back on positive memories or at all. Today, 60% of teen crashes are caused by distracted driving. Teens between the ages of 16 and 19 have the highest crash rate of any age group. In 2021, 900 people were killed in teen driver-related summertime crashes. Thus, a mix of more free time, less responsibility and new/inexperienced drivers creates the recipe for a deadly time for U.S. drivers.

Distracted  and Impaired Driving

Often teens are more distracted by other passengers rather than their phone. According to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all people increased 51%. Another concern is impaired driving. Drugged driving and drinking and driving are both illegal for anyone. If you’re under the age of 21, you are going to face more extreme consequences. NYS has zero-tolerance laws in place for underage drinkers who are charged with an impaired driving charge. Marijuana use in teens is at the highest rate in 30 years and is not legal in any of the 50 states. Also, using Marijuana and driving is just as serious and drinking and driving, even if you think it isn’t.

Quick facts about underage drinking

According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

  • 10.9 million people ages 12 to 20 (28.3% in this age group) reported that they drank in the past year.
  •  5.8 million people ages 12 to 20 (15.1% in this age group) reported that they drank in the past month.
  • 3.2 million people ages 12 to 20 (8.2% in this age group) reported binge drinking in the past month.

Accordingly, impaired driving can result in injuries and death. If you’re lucky, you will face fines, DMV fees, lawyer/court fees, license revocation and can ruin your potential for a college education, a good job, and increase you or your parents’ insurance.

Parents: What you can do

  • Set driving limits for your teen. In NYS teen drivers that are 16 & 17 years old are considered to have a junior license. Know the laws in NYS and make sure your teen knows them too. Teens with a junior license must follow a specific set of rules:
    • Teens may drive between 5AM-9PM alone
    • Cannot have more than one passenger in the vehicle that is younger than 21 years old unless they are immediate family members.
    • Every passenger must wear a seat belt.
    • Nighttime driving (Between 9PM-5AM) teens may only drive alone between their home and work/a school course. They must have proof of employment with them in the vehicle.
    • Teens may only drive between 9PM-5AM under supervision of a parent, guardian or driving instructor.
  • Never serve alcohol or other drugs at parties to underage individuals.
  • Lead by example, eliminate driving distractions and always drive sober.
  • Ensure there is an open line of communication, trust and honesty with your teen. Let them know it is okay to call you if they need a ride or are ever in a potentially dangerous driving situation.
  • Ask your teen to add #BUTNOTWHILEDRIVING to their mobile device signature and teach them how to use Focus or Do Not Disturb.
  • Ask your teen to keep you informed of where they’re going and with whom. Encourage your teen to share their location with you.
  • Have an open conversation with your teen so they know the risks of impaired and distracted driving. While empowering them to decline rides from individuals who may be under the influence or known to drive distracted.
  • Utilize the AAA Parent-Teen Driving Agreement which can be found Here

Tips for Teens:

  • Never drive under the influence
  • Keep your phone away when you’re driving. (Keep it in the glove box, your backpack or your purse)
  • Decline rides from friends who have been drinking/using drugs.
  • Utilize ride share companies like Uber/Lyft
  • Have a plan in place. Know what trusted adult you can call if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.

Tips for All:

  • Always buckle up
  • Never drive impaired
  • Put your phone away
  • Follow posted speed limits

All in all, this is an exciting time for teens. Keep your teen safe and encourage a conversation about the risks associated with reckless driving.

Teens, have fun and enjoy your summer vacation and all of the excitement that accompanies it, but please, stay safe and make healthy choices.

If you believe you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, help is here. Reach out to Spectrum Health. Also, when you’re ready, Our Impaired Drivers Program (available at our Southtowns Counseling Center and Wyoming County Counseling Center) can also help a driver complete requirements following a DWI conviction.

You can make these 100 days happy and safe instead of deadly.

Mackenzie Gullo

DWI Counselor

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