Sunday Mornings with Rania: 100 ‘Deadliest Days’

For them, it’s literally the most wonderful time of the year. Gone are the rushed mornings, the panic over assignments, class projects and tests. At least for a few months. It’s a time to stop, take a breath, and relax, for the kids and the entire family.

That said, while out goes the angst over academics, in comes (I hope) concern over our kids’ safety. Let me get laser focused for a moment . . . There are many risks inherent to this season of change: increased social media use, increased water drownings and more. Of them, though, the most concerning is the double digit increase, (43 percent to be exact), in teen-related driving deaths during the summer months. In fact, AAA calls the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day "The 100 Deadliest Days" for teen drivers. Why? Because of the overwhelming number of teen-related fatal car accidents. It’s actually incredible to think about. Parents, please, as kids get excited for the end-of-year festivities, please remind them to:

  • Drive Safely! Follow traffic signals, look at what others are doing around you (are they switching lanes, coming to a stop, running a light?). Drive safely also means, Drive Defensively.
  • Wear a Seatbelt. PLEASE. This is so simple yet so many young drivers, especially in other parts of the car (middle or back rows) don’t wear them. According to the National Safety Council, an estimated 40,200 people died in car accidents in 2016, a 6 percent rise from 2015. There was a 7 percent rise in 2015. This means that together, we saw a nearly 14 percent increase in the last two year. One-half of all these deaths were due to unbelted drivers or passengers. We need to, we must, buckle up.
  • Drinking and Driving. Of the staggering numbers just listed, one-third of the deaths were due to driving while intoxicated. We say it all the time but let’s keep saying it: Never drive, never, ever, ever drive while under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. 
  • It’s a Numbers Thing. Never have more than the maximum number of people allowed in your vehicle (if you have a four-seater car, there should never be driving around five or more people). It’s simple but teens don’t like to stick to those rules.
  • Stick to driving in daylight hours.
  • Distracted Driving. Put everything down and away and stay focus on the road. Distracted driving is a huge issue and taking the lives of so many. Between phone calls, texting, social media trolling and online mapping, people are more distracted now than ever. Add to that, young friends in a car who are having fun and feel free, hear their favorite song on the radio or want to go through filters to take a perfect Snap while driving and you literally have a recipe for disaster. Our teens need to just put it down. Put it all down. It can wait. For those of you watching, here’s an important update on the laws pertaining to this issue:

Currently Texas bans:

  • texting and driving when in a school zone or for all drivers – regardless of age;
  • all texting and phone usage for all drivers under the age of 18
  • bus drivers with minors on board from using phones while driving

That said, Texas is one of four states that does not have a texting while driving ban. More than 95 Texas cities passed local ordinances banning some form of cellphone use while driving to fill the legislative gap. After 10 years of a lot of hard work by our legislators, we are the closest we have ever been to getting that changed in this session. House Bill 62 and Senate Bill 31 introduced a statewide ban on texting while driving and made using a phone while driving a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine ranging from $25 to $99 with penalties up to $200 for repeat offenders. House Bill 62 passed and Senate Bill 31 is expected to do the same. We are close, friends!

I remember how much I loved the summer months. It is such a wonderful time of the year. Our only wish is that you and your families enjoy these moments, in safety, health and happiness.  

The Berry family has been fighting to pass legislation in Texas banning hand-held cell phone use, including texting, while driving. Read their story and how OLIE, “One Life is Enough” came to be. 

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston