'100 deadliest days' for teen drivers underway, says AAA - WFSB 3 Connecticut

'100 deadliest days' for teen drivers underway, says AAA

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)
(AAA photo) (AAA photo)

A period of time dubbed the "100 deadliest days" for teen drivers has begun, according to AAA.

The auto club said over the past five years, more than 5,000 people have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers between Memorial Day and August.

According to the University of Connecticut's crash data, almost 50 people were killed in teen-driver-involved crashes in the state over the past five years.

  • 2011: 9 Fatalities
  • 2012: 6 Fatalities
  • 2013: 14 Fatalities
  • 2014: 7 Fatalities
  • 2015: 12 Fatalities

"My brother has been in two accidents and I think one of them was related to texting and driving," said Megan Landsman of West Hartford.

While not involved in the study, Landsman's story is all too common. She said she was at least able to learn from his mistake.

"He's like 'don’t do it,'” she said.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the results of a study this week that said the use of texting and social media while driving continues to rise. It said teen drivers are more distracted than ever on the road.

“Despite every effort being made to educate teens about the dangers of distracted driving, AAA research indicates that the message is just not getting through,” said Amy Parmenter, AAA spokesperson. “And, all too often, the consequences are deadly.”

The foundation said it built on a previous study that looked at 1,700 teen driver crashes caught on camera between Aug. 2007 and July 2013. It added 500 more crashes that happened between Aug. 2013 and April 2015.

The second phase of the study confirmed that 60 percent of teen crashes involved driver distraction, according to AAA.

It also revealed that the average "eyes off the road" time increased from 1.5 seconds to 2.1 seconds.

AAA said the percentage of crashes in which the driver had no reaction beforehand nearly doubled from 13 percent in 2008 to 25 percent in 2014.

Robert Bailey of Manchester said he has two sons who drive.

"I just tell them put the phone down," he said. "I don't want to lose my sons at a young age and I know nobody wants to lose their kids.”

The foundation said the findings support a Pew Research Center study that showed text messaging has become a key component in the day-to-day interactions of teens. It said 55 percent of teens spent time every day texting and sent an estimated 80 text messages per day.

“Teen drivers in the second phase of the study have likely been texting for a longer period of their lives than those in the first phase, giving them an even more dangerous sense of confidence in doing so behind the wheel,” Parmenter said.

Additional findings included:

  • Distracting behaviors were conversing or otherwise interacting with passengers and cell phone use
  • Crashes that involved looking at a cell phone increased significantly
  • Passengers were present in 34 percent of all crashes, 85 percent of passengers were between the ages of 16 and 19
  • The driver was engaged in cell phone use in 12 percent of crashes

AAA said teen driving crashes increase significantly during the summer months because teens have more time to drive.

Here's more on AAA's phase II study.

State police are also urging parents to speak with their teens about the dangers of distracted driving.

"Personal responsibility and communication is going to beat out the fear of enforcement any day," said Trooper Tyler Weerden, Connecticut State Police.

Troopers reminded drivers that the penalties for violating the state law can lead to a $150 fine for the first violation, $300 for the second and $500 after that. For teens, they said the penalties can be even stiffer.

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