Fatal traffic crashes involving teens spike during the summer — here’s why
May 25, 2017
Alexa’s Hugs seatbelt challenge
Since 2013, Alexa’s Hugs, a nonprofit that works to raise awareness for seatbelt and vehicle safety, has sponsored a seatbelt challenge for high schools in northern Colorado. Students in those schools participate in the program by organizing events among themselves to raise awareness for driving safety. Alexa’s Hugs presents awards to schools that create the best public service announcement, have the highest percentage of students wearing seatbelts, and show the greatest increase in the number of students who wear seatbelts. This year, Windsor High School received an award for having the best overall program, run by the school’s chapter of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. Thanks to their efforts, the school saw a 16.5 percent increase in the number of students who wore seatbelts this past school year.
Ask AAA spokesman Skyler McKinley why teen drivers are more prone to traffic crashes in the summer months, and he's got a four-word answer.
"School's out for summer," he said.
Nationwide, traffic crashes tend to increase every year during June, July and August. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, on average 170 people die in traffic crashes in Colorado every year during the summer months. All age groups and demographics are represented in that list of deaths, but teenagers are especially prone to summertime crashes. The spike is so significant AAA coined the term "The 100 Deadliest Days" to describe the weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Since teens are not in school during that time period, they are more likely to be on the road. That's the No. 1 reason they're more likely to be involved in crashes, said Cpl. Matt Turner of the Weld County Sheriff's Office.
It can be easy to write off teenage drivers as bad drivers, but that's not the case, said Jona Johnson, a founding member of the nonprofit Alexa's Hugs, which works to raise awareness about driving safely, especially among teens. They're just inexperienced. That inexperience means they're not always equipped to handle risks as well as older drivers.
The risk of dying in a car crash is heightened if drivers and passengers aren't wearing seatbelts. Raising awareness to this simple fact is a crusade for Johnson, whose stepdaughter, Alexa, died in a 2013 car crash and was not wearing a seatbelt. Since 2013, she's been working with northern Colorado schools to increase the number of students who buckle up before they drive.
This past week, Alexa's Hugs awarded $500 to Windsor High School, where the number of students wearing a seatbelt increased by 16.5 percent this past school year.