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Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

100 Deadliest Days of Summer 2024

by Christina Eichelkraut

Memorial Day is filled with ceremonies of somber remembrance, friendly backyard barbecues and quiet, peaceful time away from work.

Yet it’s also the first day of the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer,  when over half of annual teen driving deaths occur. Year after year, the blood-stained statistics reaffirm the danger that comes with long, hot summer nights combined with younger, inexperienced drivers.

Deadliest Days of Summer

According to the nonprofit We Save Lives, distractions from other car passengers – usually other teens – is the leading cause teen driving death.

100 Deadliest Days of Summer 2024

by Christina Eichelkraut

Memorial Day is filled with ceremonies of somber remembrance, friendly backyard barbecues and quiet, peaceful time away from work.

Yet it’s also the first day of the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer,  when over half of annual teen driving deaths occur. Year after year, the blood-stained statistics reaffirm the danger that comes with long, hot summer nights combined with younger, inexperienced drivers.

Deadliest Days of Summer

According to the nonprofit We Save Lives, distractions from other car passengers – usually other teens – is the leading cause teen driving death.

Teens are the most likely demographic to die in a car accident according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among teens themselves, the highest-risk group are drivers from 16- to 19-years-old.

And no, it’s not just because of cell phones.

According to the nonprofit We Save Lives, distractions from other car passengers – usually other teens – is the leading cause teen driving death. In 2020, most crashes occurred at night between  9 p.m. and 6 a.m. And over half of those accidents happened during the weekends, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Those are daunting numbers and the annual campaigns to address this issue should be lauded.

But, as with many life-threatening societal issues, the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona must also gently remind people that the teens who – thankfully — survive these crashes are almost always left facing a lifetime as a traumatic brain injury survivor.

Exact statistics on teen crash survivors who become TBI survivors this can be difficult to find. Heartbreakingly, there is a plethora of information available on teen deaths from TBI due to motor vehicle crashes.

Still, it is possible to make fairly safe deductions based on what we know about who gets traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, and why.  We know as of February 2024, older adolescents from 15- to 19-years-old are one of the two groups the most likely to sustain a TBI.  We also know vehicle crashes are a leading cause, after falls, of TBI for all demographics. Further, a New York Department of Health fact sheet claims 40 percent of children hospitalized due to a vehicle crash sustain a TBI.

And though anecdotal, and usually highlighting only extremely rare, best case scenarios, the news is filled with articles that chronicle the recovery of teens who survived a car crash but who also became a lifelong TBI survivor.

As such, we can regretfully say with confidence the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer will inevitably also result in a number of teen TBI survivors as well as any devastating and tragic deaths.

The good news is parents can help reduce the risk of their teen drivers sustaining a TBI from a vehicle accident.

One effective way to do this is to show your teen what responsible driving looks like.

Your teenager may never listen to you, but while a passenger in your car they are a captive audience, literally. They may tune out what you say, but they are still watching what you do. So don’t use your phone while driving. If you do decide to have a conversation about distracted driving, remind your teen driver that phones aren’t the only distractions from the road.

You can even have some fun with it. Point out that belting a favorite song at the top of your lungs in the car is fine (windows up, please); using the steering wheel as an entire drum kit while the car is moving is not. Demonstrating this with unbridled enthusiasm will create a memorable moment for you and cringy, embarrassing episode for your teen. They may not like it, but they’ll remember it the next time they load the car up with their friends. 

Another way to teach through example is to establish good driving rules, like not eating while driving, and follow them yourself.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can attempt to sneak in a reminder of why back seat passengers should stay in the back seat. Reaching over to the driver’s dashboard to change the Spotify playlist may be the last thing anyone in that car ever does, and it’s worth pointing that out.  

Perhaps most importantly, make it explicitly clear to your teen that their safety is your top priority.

If they feel unsafe to drive, for any reason, let them know you will come and get them without harsh repercussions. Being the safest resource for your teen when they are in a treacherous situation is one of the most impactful ways you can protect them.

That may mean choosing a conversation over discipline, which can admittedly be difficult for parents. But believe us: If your teen drinks too much or takes drugs, but chooses to ride safely home with you instead driving or getting into a car with an impaired driver, that tough conversation and self-control can also mean never having to call BIAAZ.

We sincerely hope that at the end of this 100 Days of Summer we don’t meet you or your young driver. Knowing your teenager survived a car crash is undeniably something to be deeply grateful for; however, that doesn’t alter the reality of the challenges that come with living the rest of one’s life as a TBI survivor.

As the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer begin, please consider supporting BIAAZ to help the parents and teens who unfortunately are unable to run the gauntlet of these high-risk days unscathed.

Christina Eichelkraut is a recovering print journalist who founded Christina Copy Co. in 2011. When her keyboard isn’t clacking, she bakes complex artisan bread, nerds out on political science, uses her fountain pens to write to pen pals the world over, and reads long past her bedtime in a joyful disregard of her alleged adulthood. Christina earned her B.A. in Mass Communications with an emphasis in print journalism in 2006 from Franklin Pierce University.

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts virtual and in-person support groups for survivors and families
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Help Line: 888-500-9165

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