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Safe driving in Sacramento: Why car crashes increase during the summer

The '100 Deadliest Days' is a period between Memorial and Labor Day when the number of deadly crashes among teen drivers skyrockets.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to summer travel whether it's construction, travelers, or young, inexperienced drivers.

The '100 Deadliest Days' is a name for the period between Memorial and Labor Day when the number of deadly crashes among teen drivers skyrockets.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a total of 7,124 people died nationwide in summertime crashes involving teens between 2011 and 2020. These numbers make up a little less than half of the total yearly numbers for teen-related crashes.

The numbers are going up. Aldo Vazquez, a spokesperson for AAA Northern California says in 2020, 850 people were killed in crashes like these. In 2019, that number was 716.

"When you look at this small time period, you're seeing more people dying during these couple of months than they do in the rest of the year when it comes to teens driving out there on the road," said Vazquez.

Lonnie George is the father of 19-year-old Matthew George, who died in a crash nearly 11 years ago.

Credit: Lonnie George
Matthew Jacob George

"A whole life ahead of him. It was cut short because of someone’s choice that night," said George.

His son was leaving Paradise Beach along the American River with a group of seven people. George says the driver told the group he was ok to drive even though he was drunk.

"Have that rideshare app on your phone. It's a whole lot better getting home that way than coming home in an urn like our son did," said George. 

Officer Williams works for California Highway Patrol in the Valley Division. She says summer is when most crashes happen, and they typically see DUI crashes between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

CHP has three maximum enforcement periods where they look out for dangerous driving.

"They’re looking for violators, speeders, distracted drivers, definitely looking for DUI," said Williams. 

She says the number of crashes in Sacramento continues to increase.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the top cause of death for people ages 15-20 is motor vehicle crashes.

Locally, the latest data from CHP Valley Division shows that in 2021 between Memorial and Labor Day, there were a total of 7,566 crashes -- 113 of those were deadly. During that same period, there were around 1,673 DUI arrests.

Aldo Vazquez with AAA says the first line of defense for teaching kids safe driving habits is parents.

"Driving safely, following the speed limit, doing all these things, that's going to rub off on your kids, and they're going to be safer drivers because of you, and in turn, that's going to make everyone safer out there on the road," said Vazquez.

Lonnie George shared his advice, saying everyone should have a backup plan, stay alert on the roadways, and always speak up even if it's uncomfortable.

"Expect the unexpected because you don't know what could happen tomorrow," said George.

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