Traffic Safety - 09/04/09

Another holiday weekend is upon us, and area law enforcement agencies are gearing up to increase traffic patrols on our roadways. The Labor Day holiday weekend is arguably one of the biggest travel periods of the year, with motorists taking advantage of a three-day weekend to get in that last summer excursion.

This summer marks the sixth consecutive year that law enforcement agencies in all of Georgia's 159 counties have carried out an intensive effort to crack down on dangerous, aggressive and high-speed drivers who place themselves and others at risk. This campaign, dubbed "100 Days of Heat," is designed to reduce excessive speeding on roads and targets drivers during the summer months because these see the highest travel rates, with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Drivers of all ages need to be aware of the risks of the roadways, but this is also a good time to remind teenagers that they are especially at risk behind the wheel.

According to statistics compiled by the Georgia Office of Highway Safety, young, inexperienced drivers ages 16 to 24 have a higher rate of crashes, injuries and fatalities than drivers over the age of 24. In fact, based on figures from 2006, the most recent available, the crash rate per 100,000 licensed drivers ages 16 and 17 was 184 percent higher than the rate for drivers over age 24.

Speed clearly plays a role in the accident rate for young drivers. In 2006, drivers ages 16 and 17 had the highest rate of speed-related crashes, compared to all other age groups. And the speed-related crash rate per 100,000 licensed drivers in that age group was more than nine times higher than the rate for drivers over age 24.

No one sets out on the roadway thinking they'll wind up in an auto accident - particularly not teenagers. But holiday weekends on the roads can be particularly risky due to increased traffic. If you have a teenaged driver in your household, remind them as they head out the door that driving is a privilege, not a right. And they are responsible for their own safety as well as the safety of passengers and other motorists. Come to think of it, that's not a bad reminder for drivers of all ages - this weekend and any time we get behind the wheel.