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Our Opinion: Summer poses added danger for teen drivers

What’s the most dangerous time of year for teen drivers?

In a word — summer.

We’re now in the midst of that treacherous time. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 1,000 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers and more than 550 of those fatalities were teens.

In a recent “Trooper Talk” column, Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul Reinsch explored some of the reasons for the summer spike in accidents involving teens. They include:

• Lack of familiarity with routes. Because summer driving tends to be more recreational than purposeful (driving to school or work), teens travel on roadways they haven’t driven before.

• Heightened distractions. Teens carry friends more frequently, and distractions from passengers increase the risk of a crash.

• Late nights. In summer, teens tend to stay out later at night, when the crash risk is greater.

• Inviting weather conditions. Warmer temperatures and clearer visibility increase the temptation to speed.

• Less supervision. Reinsch wrote: “During the summer months, teens are more carefree and excited to have the freedom to drive around, so it’s imperative that parents help keep safety foremost in their children’s minds.”

Reinsch also noted teen are less likely than adults to wear seat belts, although this may not be exclusive to summer months. Use of seat belts may be the best way for teens to avoid fatalities; the patrol reports 71 percent of teens killed in traffic crashes weren’t wearing seat belts.

Summer is a time of greater freedom and increased activities for teens. Sadly, it also is the most deadly season for teen drivers.

Teens who are aware of summer driving dangers are better able to avoid them.

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