Because car crashes are the number one cause of death and injury for teens, and one in five teen drivers will be in a crash during their first year of driving, the Automobile Club of Southern California urges parents to be good driving role models and help teens prepare for the most dangerous years on the road. The advisory, issued by the Auto Club’s Driving School, coincides with National Teen Driver Safety Week, beginning today, Oct. 15.
Thousands of teens, ages 16-19, are killed or injured in vehicle crashes. Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. In 2015, 1,972 young teen drivers (15 to 18 years old) were involved in fatal traffic crashes, resulting in 2,207 deaths nationwide, of which 1,730 were teens. An estimated 99,000 teen drivers were taken to hospital emergency rooms with injuries. The latest California figures show that teen driver fatalities increased 26 percent in the Golden State from 72 in 2013 to 91 in 2014. Males make up 77 percent of teen driver fatalities.
A AAA survey of driving instructors revealed that parents today are worse at preparing their teens to drive than they were 10 years ago. Driving instructors reported that parents often set a bad example through their own behaviors. The survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers aged 35-55 commonly report dangerous behaviors when behind the wheel. Research also shows that teens often times mimic their driving after their parents or family members.
- 77 percent of drivers aged 35-55 reported talking on a cell phone while driving compared to 68 percent of teen drivers.
- A similar proportion of teens and drivers aged 35-55 reported driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway (45 percent and 46 percent, respectively).
“Parental involvement is critical to a novice teen driver’s success. Teen drivers often engage in risky behaviors behind the wheel due to lack of experience and reasoning skills,” said Melissa Vega, manager, of the Auto Club’s Driving School. “By investing their time and attention, parents can help their teen driver learn the crucial skills needed to navigate the complexity of the Southern California driving environment.”
Parents demonstrating that they’re following speed laws, driving distraction-free and being focused on the task of driving will go a long way toward teens doing the same when they’re behind the wheel, Vega said.
Past research shows that teens with parents who impose stricter driving limits reported fewer crashes and traffic violations. AAA recommends parents stay actively involved in coaching their teens through the learning-to-drive process by:
- Having conversations early and regularly about the dangers of speeding and distraction.
- Taking the time to practice driving with their teens in varying conditions.
- Understanding that rushing through driver training will not help the student gain valuable experience needed to become a safe driver. The best way is to schedule lessons throughout the 6 months the teen is required to hold their permit. This provides parents ample time to practice with the teen in between lessons and utilize the instructor as a coach, as well as a teacher.
- Adopting and enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for the road.
- Leading by example and minimizing distractions and speeding when they are driving.