Risky time for teens driving as COVID-19 restrictions ease

By Aldo Vazquez
Posted 5/31/20

AAA recommends now is a good time for parents to both model safe driving behaviors and help ensure their teens practice them, too.

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Risky time for teens driving as COVID-19 restrictions ease

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The combination of schools closed, activities curtailed, summer jobs canceled and COVID-19 restrictions being lifted could prove deadly as teens take to the road this summer. AAA recommends now is a good time for parents to both model safe driving behaviors and help ensure their teens practice them, too.

A total of 159 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in Arizona in the past ten years during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Nationwide, more than 8,300 people died in teen-related summertime crashes from 2008 to 2018. That’s more than seven people a day each summer as compared to the rest of the year (6 people/day).

The last decade of crash data shows that teens continue to be over-represented in crashes and summertime marks an increase of fatal crashes for this age group. Our data analysis has found that for every mile driven, new teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults.

Due to their inexperience, teen drivers are at a higher risk of crashes. According to the new AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, about 72% of teen drivers aged 16-18 admitted to having engaged in at least one of the following risky behaviors in the past 30 days:

• Driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street (47 percent);

• Driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway (40 percent);

• Texting (35 percent);

• Red-light running (32 percent);

• Aggressive driving (31 percent);

• Drowsy driving (25 percent);

• Driving without a seatbelt (17 percent).

Parents remain the best line of defense to keep everyone safe behind the wheel. It’s never too early to educate teens on the dangers of distracted driving, speeding and the impairing effects of alcohol and marijuana. But we can’t just tell teens about the dangers. We must also refrain from engaging in risky driving behaviors ourselves and ensure we are modeling good behavior.

To keep roads safer this summer, AAA encourages parents to:

• Talk with teens early and often about abstaining from dangerous behavior behind the wheel, such as speeding, impairment and distracted driving.

• Teach by example and minimize risky behavior when driving.

• Establish a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.

• Conduct at least 50 hours of supervised practice driving with their teen.

With the closure of some DMV’s across the country due to COVID-19, some states have waived the road test for teens, allowing a driver permit to be graduated to a license as long as the driver has met state specified guidelines. AAA believes it is imperative for teens to have adequate training and would benefit from additional practice before receiving their license.

In states where the decision has been made to upgrade permits to licenses AAA offers this advice:

• Parents should be actively involved in the learning-to-drive experience.

• Parents should be as objective as possible about their teen’s driving skills to ensure they are road ready.

• Parents need to acknowledge that teens are risky and inexperienced. Be ready to truly evaluate their readiness to drive solo.

To support parents in conducting practice driving sessions during COVID-19 and beyond, AAA is providing a free four-page guide to help parents coach their teens on how to drive safely.

“Coaching Your New Driver — An In-Car Guide for Parents” offers behind-the-wheel lesson plans, including a variety of do’s and dont’s to make the learning experience as helpful as possible. For parents, the guide can be beneficial as they coach their teens on a variety of routes, building on their formal behind-the-wheel training.

TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart Parent Session also offers excellent resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges.

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.

Aldo Vazquez is a spokesperson for AAA Arizona.

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