AAA projects heavy car traffic for Memorial Day Weekend; emphasizes dangerous time for teen drivers

Car accidents happen at an increased frequency during the summer months, especially during Memorial Day weekend and especially coming out of a pandemic.
New York State and Erie County Police stand with WNY and CNY's AAA in Amherst, N.Y. (05/25/2023).
New York State and Erie County Police stand with WNY and CNY's AAA in Amherst, N.Y. (05/25/2023). Photo credit Max Faery - WBEN

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - With Memorial Day Weekend upon us, AAA projects over 42 million people will travel 50 miles or more away from their home this weekend, which could exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

While Monday marks a day for honor and remembrance, it also marks the start of a period that AAA calls "100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers."

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"While the term, '100 Deadliest Days' sounds gruesome, it's a phrase that AAA coined with good reason, bringing attention to the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when fatal teen crashes escalate dramatically," says Mark Gruba with AAA Western and Central New York.

Nationwide, 6,598 people died in teen driver-related summertime crashes over a ten-year period from 2012-2021.

In New York State, 185 people were killed during the summer months over the ten-year span, a sad increase from 292 people people killed over the course of 9 non-summer months over the ten-year period.

"I plead out to parents, please preach to your teenage drivers to slow down and pay undivided attention to the road. Buckle up and move over when you see a disabled or emergency vehicle on the side of the road. One life lost is way too many to lose," said Tony Spada, CEO of AAA WCNY.

"Parents need to be involved," added Erie County Undersheriff William Cooley. "You play an essential role in your teen's safety in the vehicle. Studies indicate parental involvement, monitoring, and supervision reduces risky driving behaviors. Also, parents, practice what you preach. If your teen sees you speeding, talking on the phone or not wearing your seatbelt, they're more likely to mimic you and these types of driving habits."

"This weekend, we're joined together with DMV, through this weekend doing heavy enforcement looking for intoxicated drivers, the third cause of all fatality collisions, and accidents," said New York State Trooper James O'Callaghan. "Why are we doing that? We're doing this because no officer wants to walk up to a house and tell you your son, daughter, mother or father they're not coming home, primarily because of a choice that they made that they could have controlled. Wheel speed, distracted, or intoxicated, those are the three in large of all our collisions when we investigate."

Teen drivers are at a higher risk for crashes due to inexperience. A recent AAA report shows that 72% of teenagers who drive have engaged in at least one risky behavior in the past 30 days.

"...disregarding the speed limit, aggressive driving, driving without seatbelts, texting while driving, I could go on. As driving instructor with AAA, we urge teens to put away that cell phone and put it out of reach, obey the speed limits and stay away from intoxicating substances like alcohol and marijuana," said AAA's Victor Morales.

On a positive note, AAA reports gas prices have gone down nationally and locally, down over $1 from last year, which translates to a potential large number of travellers travelling by automobile.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Max Faery - WBEN