AAA Northern California reminded parents of teen drivers to stay involved in their learning process even after the law allows them to drive without a licensed adult driver in the car.
According to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teens are 50 percent more likely to crash in the first month of driving than they are after a full year of experience driving on their own, and are nearly twice as likely to crash as they are after two full years of experience. Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States.
“We know that young drivers’ crash rates decrease quickly as they gain experience,” Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokesperson, said in a news release. “What our new study tells us is that gaining experience is one of the single best ways to prepare teens to drive independently.”
AAA Foundation crash data analysis of new drivers in North Carolina revealed that three common mistakes—such as failure to reduce speed, inattention, and failure to yield—accounted for 57 percent of all crashes in which teens were at least partially responsible for during their first month of licensed driving. Researchers looked at specific types of crashes in relation to how long the driver had been licensed. They found that some types of crashes occurred at relatively high rates at first, but declined quickly with experience. The high initial inexperience was followed by rapid learning. Crash types that decline more slowly appear to result not from lack of understanding, but from failure to master certain driving skills. In a related study by the AAA Foundation, in-vehicle cameras were installed to monitor teens while learning to drive with parents, followed by the first six months of licensed driving without their parents in the car. The research found that while teens had their learners’ permits, routine trips on familiar roads under relative easy driving conditions accounted for the bulk of the time spent behind the wheel. The study also showed a few instances of texting behind the wheel, distractions with other passengers, running red lights, and other potentially distracting or dangerous behaviors.
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AAA Tips for parents to improve teen drivers’ safety as they start to drive on their own:
Practice, practice, practice. Once teens have their actual license, continue to ensure that basic skills are mastered and to introduce varied driving
conditions such as snow, heavy traffic and rural roads with an experienced driver in the passenger seat.
Keep passengers out. Teen drivers’ crash risks multiply with teenage passengers in the vehicle. Set limits and enforce them consistently.
Limit night driving. Reduced visibility makes night driving riskier for drivers of all ages. For inexperienced teens, it’s even harder. Allow new teen drivers to drive at night only if truly necessary and to practice with a parent.
Keep setting rules. Establish and enforce rules above and beyond state laws. In addition to night and passenger limits, set rules for inclement weather, highways, cities, or other driving conditions in which a teen has not gained enough experience. Find a parent-teen agreement on TeenDriving.aaa.com that can help.
The findings pertaining to the crash rates of newly-licensed drivers are based on analysis of crashes of young drivers licensed in North Carolina between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2008. For more information about teen driving visit the website at www.aaa.com/teendriving.