Experts: Teen drivers more likely to crash in summer


The bad news: Sixteen-year-olds are three times more likely to die in car crashes than people who have been on the road only a few more years.

The good news: They're almost two and a half times less likely to die in crashes than people the same ages were 20 years ago.

We've made good progress over the years in terms of making the roads safer, especially for younger drivers, but there's still a way to go, experts say, and summer is the most dangerous time for teens on the road.

Less supervision: One reason for the added danger in the summer is young drivers are often under less supervision than they are during the school year, said Felicity Erni, who's in charge of the PA Teen Safe Driving Coalition and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Teens have more free time then, and they often drive around with multiple passengers, which makes it more likely they'll crash, she said.

Parents should keep in mind that they've been setting an example of how kids should drive for the children's whole lives, Erni said.

"Parents really have a large influence on all of these things happening," Erni said. "From the time you switch from backward-facing car seats to forward-facing car seats, the kids are watching what the parents are doing while driving."

And then once the kids are driving, it's important to keep on top of them to drive safely, especially during the summer.

"Parents are the key," she said.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests one reason for the higher rates of accidents among younger people is teens' overestimation of their own driving abilities. Both age and experience have a big effect on the crash rate for drivers, it says.

Data shows 62 percent of 16-year-olds' crashes result from driver error; the number drops into the high and then mid-50s over the next few years, and it is 40 percent for drivers age 30-59.

Licensing: So it might make sense that Erni cites graduated-driver licensing as one big reason for the fact that teens are crashing less. That phrase refers to the fact that these days kids have restrictions placed on them after they first get their licenses.

In Pennsylvania, new drivers can't drive more than one passenger at a time for six months.

She also credits the fact that in 2011 the state requirements jumped from 50 hours to 65 hours of supervised driving before a new driver can get a license.

The adage holds especially true here: Practice really does make perfect, and Erni said, it's very important that parents make sure that happens, both before the they get their licenses and after.

"Let your teen be your driver," she suggests. "Continue the driving learning experience."

— Reach Sean Philip Cotter at