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The 100 Deadliest Days of the Year: Teen Driving Fatalities Spike In Summer

In addition to honoring our nation’s military heroes who gave their lives in service,
Memorial Day weekend marks the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. School is winding down,
beach season begins, pools are preparing to open, and people are looking forward to
being outside in the warm weather. The summer season is widely viewed as a fun and
happy time for all, and especially for teens who have the summer off from school. But
as we move into the season, it is important to remember that Memorial Day also begins
a time period known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers.


This treacherous stretch of time spanning from Memorial Day to Labor Day sees a
sharp increase in the number of teens killed in car accidents. Nationwide, 7,316 people
died in teen driver-related summertime crashes from 2011 to 2020, according to the
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. That is nearly half of the total number of those killed
in teen-driver crashes for the rest of the year. The math is easy to understand, as
having additional free time puts more teens on the road for longer periods of time and
often in a ‘carefree and fun’ mode. The Automobile Association of America (AAA) cites
this increased activity of teen drivers as one of the primary reasons for the seasonal
increase in fatalities.


AAA also notes that relaxed or distracted driver behavior is a significant contributing
factor to the jump in fatalities. Distractions resulting from fellow teen passengers is
shown to be a key factor. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows
that when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all
people increased 51%. In instances where teens were accompanied by passengers 35
years of age or older, the overall fatality rates in crashes decreased by 8%.


One of the best ways parents can help protect their teens is to educate them on the
dangers of drunk and impaired driving. According to National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration statistics, the number of overall deaths from drunk driving incidents is
still on the rise. In 2021, 13,384 lives were lost in drunk driving related crashes,
representing a 14% increase over the amount in 2020. If you are a parent of a teen, let
them know never to drive or get in the car with someone who has been drinking or
taking other drugs. Establishing a ‘no questions asked’ parent pickup or ‘Uber’ policy
can be the difference between life and death.


Other important factors that help keep everyone safe include obeying speed limits,
using seat belts, putting phones down while driving, and focusing on the road. While
these are all things that should be done every time we get in a vehicle, a seasonal
reminder is certainly a good idea in light of the increased danger this time of year.
It is not just teens that can benefit from these safety reminders. Adults need to lead by
example. The statistics cited here include adult fatalities involving teen drivers, as well
as adult drivers that killed teen drivers and their passengers in another car. As a parent
or an adult, the last thing you’d want to be responsible for is the death of someone’s
child as a result of your negligence or criminality.


This time of year, I always remember 13 year old Larisa Karassik who was tragically
killed in a crash with a drunk driver. Her mother Anastasia Karassik, speaks at our DWI
awareness events and her remarks bring a very real and personal reflection to the
effects of drunk driving as she describes the shift from a carefree Memorial Day
weekend to the unspeakable grief of having to identify her daughter’s body. On a
beautiful summer afternoon, Larisa went to get ice cream with her dad and friend.
Larisa’s life was taken by a driver with two prior DWI convictions who was driving with a
blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit and also impaired by drugs. The driver died in
the accident along with Larisa, her friend and father suffered serious injuries that
required dozens of surgeries.


The Town is coordinating a DWI demonstration later in June for Nanuet High School
seniors. I am grateful for the participation of our local schools, Fire Departments,
Ambulance Corps (particularly the Youth Corps members who volunteer to play the
roles of driver and victims), the Clarkstown Police Department, and Higgins Funeral


One bad decision can have horrific and irrevocable consequences that will affect you
and others. Make responsible and smart choices to keep yourself and others safe on
the roads, especially during the summer months.


Also be aware that the Clarkstown Police Department and other law enforcement
agencies will increase enforcement during these “100 Deadliest Days.”
Wishing you all a safe and happy summer.