Cellphones, distractions, booze—a deadly combination

The news is mixed when it comes to roadway safety numbers.

Since the 1980s, drunk driving deaths in the U.S. have decreased by 51 percent overall and by over 80 percent for those 21 and younger. But the bad news is that distracted driving, especially among teens, accounts for 60 percent of all accidents on the road despite laws aimed at cracking down on distracted driving.

It seems we’ve fixed one problem only to be faced with another.

Safety experts and law enforcement want young motorists traveling the Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village roads to take extra care this summer as the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day are considered the 100 deadliest days of the year for inexperienced drivers.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2016 during the 100 deadliest days, a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year.

The number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes increased more than 10 percent from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent crash data.

Part of that increase can be attributed to the fact that teens are spending more time on the road, especially later at night. The study shows that 36 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities involving teenage drivers occurred between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and that 1 in 10 of all fatal nighttime crashes involved a teen driver.

Experts say teens are also more likely to speed and underestimate the amount of space they need to give cars ahead of them. And though “buckle up” has been a mantra for decades, a 2015 national survey reported that nearly 40 percent of young drivers admitted they didn’t always wear a seat belt.

There’s also the distracted driving that comes from talking with other passengers and using cellphones behind the wheel.

Lastly, booze. Certainly the number of teen drunk drivers has decreased, but a 2015 nationwide survey showed 20 percent of high school students reported that, within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

So what can be done?

Talk with teenagers regularly about the dangers of risky driving situations, namely speeding and nighttime driving. Set a good example, and consider a parent-teen driving agreement that sets rules for the road, such as speed limits that are stricter than a state’s law.

We all get busy, and it can be hard when everyone in the family is going in different directions during these summer days, but sometimes it just takes a simple reminder to make driving safety a priority.

We’re halfway through the 100 deadliest days. Let’s try to make it through the next few weeks safe and sound.