As summer officially starts, teenage drivers across the USA are poised to enjoy school-free days, summer jobs and youthful frolics.
Their parents might be less eager. Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the USA, and the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest for drivers ages 15-20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Traffic safety experts attribute the higher fatality rate to youths having more free time under less parental supervision, more opportunities to drive at night, when road risks are higher, and relaxed curfews.
"For many kids, every day in the summer is a weekend day," says Justin McNaull, state relations director for auto club AAA. "There's less parental supervision in the daytime because Mom and Dad are at work. In the evening, curfews get slid back, and they spend more time on purposeless trips, which are more dangerous. Driving with your buddies to find a party at 10 p.m. is very different from driving to school at 7 a.m. on a weekday. There's a very different environment both outside and inside the vehicle."
To counter this reality, states and highway safety officials try to reach young drivers before the end of the school year and remind them — and their parents — to exercise extreme caution while on summer break.