Over the past five years, teen drivers were involved in nearly 14,000 fatal crashes and more than 4,200 of those crashes involved speeding, according to federal data. And a new AAA survey of driving instructors identifies speeding as one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive. With 65 percent of those instructors also reporting that parents today are worse at preparing their teens to drive compared to a decade ago, AAA cautions parents that their involvement is key to preventing deadly mistakes behind the wheel.
“Nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen,” said the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Community Programs & Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “Research shows that involved parents really can help save lives, so it’s important for parents to coach their teens to slow down, as well as to avoid other common driving mistakes.”
Nationally, traffic crashes continue to rank as the number one cause of death for 16-to 19-year olds, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In California, teen driver fatalities (age 16-19) increased 26.4 percent from 72 in 2013 to 91 in 2014 and while thousands of others were injured, according to the state’s Office of Traffic Safety. Examining all fatalities involving young California drivers, age 15 to 20, including passengers, occupants of other vehicles and non-occupants, and the number climbs to 411, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System data.
In the survey, Skills of Novice Teen Drivers, 142 driving instructors revealed the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive:
- Speeding: Traveling over posted speed limits or too fast for road conditions.
- Distraction: Interacting with a cell phone, talking with passengers or looking at other objects in the vehicle.
- Poor Visual Scanning: Driving with tunnel vision and not properly scanning the road for risks or hazards.
“By investing their time early and throughout their teens driving years, parents can help their teen driver learn how to navigate our complex driving environment safely,” said Lorz Villagrana. “That’s why the Auto Club offers parent-teen driver workshops all over the Southland to share with families the risks affecting teen drivers and to help prepare parents and teens with what they need to know before they start driving. The Auto Club ‘Dare to Prepare’ workshop also empowers parents to be proactive in their teens’ driving experience.”
In addition to revealing that parents today are worse at preparing their teens to drive than they were 10 years ago, driving instructors report that parents often set a bad example through their own behaviors. A recent 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 and model 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).
”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, ” according to Lorz Villagrana. “Parents can make a life or death difference with their own teen driver by being outstanding driving role models.”
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.
- 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.
AAA also recommends that teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills. Resources to help parents choose a class and coach their teen through the learning-to drive process can be found on AAA’s award-winning website TeenDriving.AAA.com.