June 22, 2006
A new AAA study shows the number of teenage fatal crashes spikes during the summer months, but if driving restrictions are enforced, the number of teen deaths should be far lower. Studies show that July and August are the deadliest months for 16- and 17-year-olds who get behind the wheel. One local Drivers Instructor is telling his students that it doesn't have to be them.
Richard Wharam has been a teaching teens to drive for 19 years. He said he has seen his fare share of tragedies.
"One of my students who had graduated from high school and gone to college was killed in a drunk driving accident," said Wharam.
This is why Wharam takes this new AAA study to heart and expresses his concerns to teens in his classes.
"Studies have shown that teens are distracted by what's inside the car, the radio, the CD, the navigation system and especially a passenger," said Wharam.
The study shows if teenagers follow the state passenger restrictions, they have far fewer crashes than those who don't. The law states 16 and 17-year-old drivers should have no more than 1 non-family member in their car.
Those teenagers who also follow what is called 'graduated drivers license' rules, are more often crash-free as well. That law states until they're 16 and a half, teens are not allowed to drive passed 9 p.m. and if they are under 18, no driving between midnight and 4 a.m. unless it's job related or an emergency.
"The number of drunk drivers skyrockets at that point," said Wharam.
Both Wharam and AAA believe with the combination of the right laws and parent involvement, the number of car accidents and teen deaths should decline.
"Limit the amount of time your teen is going to be driving, especially the first year," said Wharam.
Virginia has one of the toughest teen driving laws, yet 269 teenagers Virginia drivers and their victims died in car accidents between 1995 and 2004.