AAA says seven of the top 10 deadliest days for teen driving happen during the summer months, when kids are out of school and spending time hanging out with friends.
"Summer can be a fun season for teens, but it can also have the highest fatality rates," said Michelle Chaka, a safety researcher with Ford. The automaker's research shows 358 teens died in the summer months of 2011, compared with 271 for the winter months.
Ford released a survey Tuesday showing that teens often mimic their parents' behavior behind the wheel. So if you text and drive or chat on the phone and drive, you pretty much should assume Junior is doing the same thing when he's out of your eyesight.
Ford used the survey results to tout its MyKey technology, which allows parents to restrict some of their teen's driving even when they are not around. The car will refuse to play the radio until the front seatbelts are fastened, for instance. It can also limit the radio sound levels, set a top speed for the car, and will prevent teens from shutting off active safety assistance like collision warning and parking assist.
A ton of non-profit groups which focus on teen driving safety have issued press releases in the past month alerting the public that the dangerous months are coming. Some groups try to scare teens into being more responsible behind the wheel, by hosting gruesome role playing events that show the aftermath of a fatal accident. Some businesses want parents to buy their gadget – an app that blocks texting, for example, or a GPS unit that tracks where your teen is driving.
While there is no silver bullet that can guarantee your teen will stay safe behind the wheel, parental involvement makes a huge difference. This is what AAA suggests:
Restrict driving and eliminate joy rides: For the first year of driving, parents should limit their teen's solo drives to essential trips only, and only with parental permission. No matter how much they protest, the first year after the get their license should still be considered a training period.
Limit the number of passengers and time as a passenger: The number of crashes that happen with a large posse of kids in the car is staggering. And when there's a large group of kids in a car and something goes wrong, a bad situation can turn exponentially more tragic. Fatal crashes for teens increase five-fold when there are two or more teen passengers in the car.
The nation was shocked earlier this year when a car full of teens from Ohio died in a crash. The same sad situation happened just weeks ago in California. It is likely to happen again this summer.
Restrict night driving: The risk of a fatal teen crash doubles at night. More than half of night time crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. Just because your teen has his or her license doesn't mean you should abdicate your role as chauffer. Either plan on continuing to pick up and drop off when your teen is out, or plan for more sleepovers.
Establish a driving agreement: Set clear consequences when your teen violates the rules, and stick to the plan. AAA offers a sample teen driving agreement at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
Whatever you do, don't assume that because the state has issued your child a driver's license that he or she is now a safe driver. There is no such thing as a safe teen driver – they are inexperienced behind the wheel and need years of practice before they can truly be considered safe. The best thing parents can do is monitor their children and educate them as they use their teen years to practice essential driving skills.