AAA survey reveals top deadly mistakes made by teen drivers

aaaOver the past five years, teen drivers were involved in nearly 14,000 fatal crashes and about a third of them – more than 4000 – involved speeding.

In Virginia,  68% of teen driver fatalities were speed-related crashes thus far for 2016 (January 1-October 6, 2016), according to preliminary data provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Virginia Highway Safety Office.

This comes as no surprise to teen driving instructors who, in a new AAA survey, identify speeding as one of the top three mistakes young drivers make when learning to drive and, the instructors say that, in many cases, parents are setting a dangerous example.

As we approach National Teen Driver Safety Week, AAA is reminding parents that they can play an important role in preventing deadly mistakes behind the wheel.

“Lack of experience combined with dangerous behaviors behind the wheel can have deadly consequences,” said Martha Mitchell Meade.  “Parents of teen drivers are urged to lead by example each and every time they drive and to coach teens towards good driving behaviors before, during and after the learning to drive process.”

In the survey, Skills of Novice Teen Drivers, 142 driving instructors revealed the top three mistakes they observe 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.  (Here’sdramatic video of distracted teens crashing).  According to preliminary data provided by the DMV Virginia Highway Safety Office, so far for 2016 (January 1-October 6, 2016), distracted driving accounted for one-in-five (20%) of teen driver fatalities in Virginia.
  • Poor Visual Scanning: Driving with tunnel vision and not properly scanning the road for risks or hazards.

A recent survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety supports the driving instructors’ observations about parents setting dangerous examples. The survey found that drivers aged 35-55 admit to the following dangerous behaviors when behind the wheel:

  • 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).

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.

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.


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