The Curry Coastal Pilot

One of two vehicle accidents on North Bank Chetco River Road last Friday were grim reminders that teenagers and parents need to be more diligent about practicing and emphasizing safe driving habits.

The teenagers involved in the accident were lucky to walk away from the overturned truck with just bumps and bruises. That stretch of road has a long history of tragedy andndash; a history that is usually written during the summer months.

A study by the Automobile Association of America's Foundation for Traffic Safety, which reviewed government data on teen crashes from 2007 to 2010, reinforces that summer is the deadliest time of year for teen drivers and their passengers. An average of 422 teens die monthly in traffic crashes during summer in the United States, compared to an average of 363 teen deaths during the nonsummer months.

The study determined that a 16- or 17-year-old driver's risk of death per mile driven increases 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21 (and no older passengers). If there are two passengers younger than 21, the risk is double. The risk quadruples when carrying three or more passengers of that age.

In addition to the risk posed by having young passengers in the car, teen drivers are often distracted by cell phones and text messaging, researchers say. Teen drivers are more likely to exceed speed limits. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is another risk factor.

Parents, responsible adults and even peers can have a positive impact on the safety of teen drivers.

Parents need to help their teenage drivers develop safe driving habits, and teens themselves need to speak up when a driver is speeding or driving intoxicated.

Doing so will not make you popular, but it could prevent the needless loss of life in preventable car accidents.