It’s summer — the carefree time of the year for our kids. There are visits with friends, pool parties and concerts. But when teens ride together with a teen driver behind the wheel, the accident risk goes up in Oklahoma and throughout the United States.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that when a teen is driving with another teen as a passenger, the nationwide fatality rate for everyone in the car increases by 51%. When people 35 and older ride with a teenage driver, fatality rates in accidents drop by 8%.

According to AAA, in 2016, more than 1 million crashes involved teen drivers and caused more than 3,200 deaths. When teen drivers had teen passengers, these were the fatality rates:

  • People in other vehicles: 56%
  • Teen drivers: 45%
  • Cyclists and pedestrians: 17%

“This analysis shows that in crashes where teen drivers are behind the wheel with a teen passenger, a larger portion of those killed are other road users,” said the executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This study also found the fatality rate of a teen-driver related crash increased when factors like speeding or driving at night, were introduced.”

Before parents hand the car keys to their teenagers this summer, a few things should happen. They must sit in the passenger seat while their kids drive and supervise them; AAA recommends 100 hours of supervised practice, in a variety of road and weather conditions, before kids drive alone.

Once that has been accomplished and parents feel their children are prepared, they still must make rules and enforce them. Those should include no distracted driving, plus setting a limit on how many teen passengers can ride in the car. AAA recommends no more than one non-family member under age 20 for novice drivers.

A car is a powerful tool in the hands of a teenager, and parents must make sure they are as prepared as possible to hit the road. They don’t want their child harmed, a passenger hurt or an innocent motorist killed or injured.