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KNOXVILLE — May is a dangerous month for teenage motorists in Tennessee, a University of Tennessee study shows.

Traffic data analyzed by UT’s Community Health Research Group show that most automobile crash injuries to Tennessee teens occur in May.

The latest statistics show 1,279 teen crashes with injuries in May 1997–the most of any month that year. May also had the most teen injuries in 1993, 1995, and 1996, and was second in 1994.

Dr. Sandra Putnam, director of the UT group, said May 1997 also had the year’s highest total number of teen accidents (3,974), most teen crashes with property damage (2,670), and teen fatalities (25).

Dr. Steve Richards, director of UT’s Transportation Research Center, said crashes and injuries to all age groups often rise in May as the summer vacation travel season begins.

Richards said the jump is highest for teenagers because May events such as summer break, prom, and graduation can distract teen drivers or contribute to increased alcohol and drug use.

Lack of seatbelt usage is another factor, he said.

“Teenagers have the lowest seatbelt usage of any age group,” Richards said. “That combines with other factors in May to increase their risk of injury.”

Richards said the Tennessee Traffic Safety Resources program at UT coordinates efforts such as Prom Promise, which helps local students, parents and schools work together to improve teen traffic safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than a third of all 16-to-20 year-old deaths result from motor vehicle crashes, and 37 percent of those deaths are alcohol-related. The NHTSA estimates 2,104 persons aged 16-20 died in alcohol-related crashes in 1998.