Safety tips for teens during summer’s ‘100 deadliest days’

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For most teenagers, summer is a time filled with fun and relaxation, but for those with their license, that could also mean potential distractions behind the wheel.

Elizabeth Carey, the director of public relations with AAA, said due to their inexperience, teen drivers are at a higher risk of crashes, especially during what’s known as the “100 deadliest days,” which are between Memorial and Labor Day.

“If you take a look at a 10-year period, nearly 6,700 people [are] killed across the country by teen drivers, just in the summertime,” Carey said.

According to AAA, in New York State, 13 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers during the summer of 2022.

In total, 151 people were killed in teen driver crashes during the “100 deadliest days” over a 10-year span beginning in 2013, which is an average of 15 deaths per summer in New York State.

“This is an uptick that we see every year,” Carey said. “Young drivers out here trying to enjoy summer, they’re out and about with this newfound freedom and unfortunately, there can be deadly consequences.”

“Driving carries a lot of responsibilities, financial, moral and so forth,” Sam Dalfonso, who’s been a driving instructor for more than 50 years, said. “One crash can wipe out your whole family.”

News 4 spoke with people who work with the younger generation every day. They said there are certain steps teens should take to stay safe this summer.

Alan Holmes of Holmes Driving School in Buffalo has been a driving instructor for more than 24 years.

“Stay focused and look where you’re going,” Holmes said. “Look ahead, look ahead on the road and start out in your car by putting your seatbelt on, your mirrors, adjust them — your car got to fit you like a glove. So, when you get in a car, adjust your seat, adjust your mirrors, get yourself comfortable.”

Dalfonso echoed Holmes’ advice, saying that driving is technical, but teens should be mentally ready to travel on wheels.

The physical skills that drive a car are very easily acquired,” he said. “The mental skill, they require practice.”

“It’s not going to happen right away,” Holmes said. “That’s why it is important that parents enroll their kids into a driver education.”

Dalfonso said the most modern cars have driver-assisting technologies like lane departure and blind spot warnings, but teens can’t let that become a crutch.

“Technology’s there to help you, but ultimately, you are the driver,” Dalfonso said. “You’re responsible for yourself and your passengers and the people around you.”

“If you know in your heart that your friend is not a safe driver, don’t get in a car with a driver that’s unsafe,” Holmes concluded. “I don’t care if it’s your girlfriend, your boyfriend — if you feel that you’re uncomfortable, we’ve got many ways to get home now.”

For experienced drivers, Holmes and Dalfonso said if there’s a young driver on the road this summer, give them extra time and space to get comfortable behind the wheel.

Help be a solution, not a cause, of teen crashes, they said.

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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