100 deadliest days begins for teen drivers

We’re now into the “100 Deadliest Days,” where fatal crashes for our youngest drivers increases drastically during the summer months. Deadly crashes involving teenage drivers jump up 14 percent compared to the rest of the year, according to AAA.

During this time period, an average of 10 people per day were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2016. Experts say there are a few factors that could be causing this number of crashes.

A lot of teens have taken Travis Kowalski’s driving school courses– about 300 or more each year. He said many of the problems kids have while driving is because of lack of experience.

“Spacial awareness is the big thing that kids just don’t understand– that there are others around them. And over time it gets better but those first couple drive times are always fun,” said Kowalski, owner of Mississippi Valley Driving School.

That coupled with speed can be a deadly combo. AAA found 29 percent of all motor vehicle deaths involving a teen driver were speed-related. But they might not know that they’re going too fast or need to come to a stop if they’re not paying attention.

“I think when we’re talking about these crashes, the teens are more than likely getting distracted. They’re paying attention to things they shouldn’t be,” said Sgt. Tom Walsh of the La Crosse Police Department.

Some people just aren’t getting the message to put the phone away.

“Often we’re seeing teens that are still driving with those devices in their hands, whether they’re texting or calling somebody,” Walsh said.

And if they’re not making conversation over the phone, it’s happening right inside the vehicle. The law does put limits on the number of people teen drivers can have in their vehicle with them, but that can only help so much.

“Make sure you’re not putting people in the car that aren’t supposed to be in the car. Making good choices when they are in the car with you,” Kowalski said.

The bottom line for all drivers is when you’re behind the wheel, it’s your job to just drive.

“If you need to pay attention to something else, then you need to pull the car over, pay attention to what you need to, take care of your business, and then get back to driving,” Walsh said.

The 100 deadliest days will end on Labor Day.