October 24, 2013
AAA National has come up with a fun, informative (and humble) way to underscore the main message of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from October 20 to 26, that involved parents produce safer teen drivers.
They have created a quiz for parents: “Are You Smarter Than Your Teen Driver”
to review how some basic driving recommendations have changed over the
years (hand position on steering wheel, for example) and to reinforce
that one major thing remains the same: smarter teen driving starts with
The quiz is part of a national contest soliciting driving advice from
parents and a chance to gauge their own driving smarts. (Entries can be
submitted through December 11.)
The quiz is short, but challenging. (This reporter, who frequently writes about teen driving safety issues, scored modestly.)
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in
the United States and teens have the highest crash rate of any age
group. And the risk of teens being involved in a deadly crash increases
significantly when they carry peer passengers.
But research from the final phase of a multi-year study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety,
a nonprofit research and education organization, highlighted that
parents can do two simple things to help make their teens safer behind
• Ensure that they get plenty of practice in a wide variety of driving conditions and situations
• Share their driving experience and wisdom with their teens
“These recommended coaching techniques may seem rather obvious, yet
research findings show that parents aren’t regularly practicing these
techniques,” Dr. William Van Tassel, AAA manager of driver training
programs said in a statement.
The foundation’s research found that:
• Nearly half of parents reported they wanted their teens to get “a
lot of practice,” when asked about their plans for their teens’ driving.
Yet, only about one in four parents mentioned practicing under a
variety of situations or conditions, such as in bad weather, heavy
traffic, or on unfamiliar roads.
• Nearly half of parents (47 percent) reported that there was still
at least one condition in which they were not comfortable allowing their
teen to drive unsupervised even after they passed their driving test
and got their license to drive independently.
• Few parents in the study were observed sharing more complex driving
tips—such as visual scanning or anticipating other drivers’ behaviors –
with their teen drivers.
“Parents should make sure that their teens get ample driving
practice, which goes beyond getting practice on routine trips on
familiar roads,” Peter Kissinger, president and chief executive of the
foundation said in a statement. “If they do, teens will be much more
likely to have the skills and mindset needed to be safer drivers.”
Setting and enforcing family rules, and providing additional coaching
beyond the minimum required is also important. State requirements
regarding supervised driving practice vary by state, with many requiring
a minimum 50 hours, but in most cases this is not enough, experts say.
In step with AAA’s advice that parents should spend more time with
their teen drivers so they can build as much experience as possible
before driving alone, the organization has developed a wide range of
educational tools to help simplify the learning-to-drive process, like
its new “StartSmart Online Parent Session.”
The interactive two-hour program covers the essential elements,
including a discussion about the situations and challenges parents will
most likely experience during supervised driving practice, the AAA
noted. The program is being launched in conjunction with a new “How to
Drive Online” novice driver education program.
Parent-teen driving agreements, online webinars, licensing
information, a web-based parent support e-newsletter program created in
partnership with the National Institutes of Health, and other resources are available here.