A new AAA study underscores the danger of a car full of teens. In light of new information and in recognition of National Teen Driver Safety Week all this week, AAA is urging parents to get involved in their teen’s driving and stay involved even after they have their license.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, risky driving behavior among 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes increased when other teens were in the car. Nationally, 9,578 drivers age 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes from 2005 to 2010, and 3,994—or 42 percent—of these included at least one teen passenger.
“Inexperience paired with risk-taking behind the wheel is the main cause of teen crashes,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Previous AAA research has shown that factors such as nighttime driving and additional teen passengers multiply the crash risk, but this new information opens our eyes to just how much that risk is magnified with teen passengers.”
According to the study, the prevalence of risky behaviors generally grew for teen drivers as the number of teen passengers increased. For example, the likelihood of teens to speed increases from 30 percent to 44 percent with two teen passengers in the vehicle as opposed to driving solo.
“Oklahoma’s Graduated Driver’s License Law limits teen passengers for teens during the intermediate phase,” said Mai. “However, once teens have their full license, it’s up to parents to take steps, such as enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement, to help keep new teen drivers safe while they gradually gain experience behind the wheel.”
Steps that families can tke to improve their teens’ level of safety as they begin driving:
- Practice makes perfect. Oklahoma requires teens to drive only 50 supervised hours before earning their full license. However, AAA encourages parents to double those hours and continue practicing together even after the teen is licensed to ensure that basic skills are mastered and to introduce progressively challenging conditions like driving in rain, heavy traffic and on rural roads.
- Limit teen passengers. In Oklahoma, teens with learner permits may only drive when accompanied by a licensed driver of at least 21 years of age. Intermediate license holders may not drive with more than one non-family passenger younger than 18. Parents are urged to extend this restriction until they are fully confident in their teen’s driving ability, or to further limit teen passengers.
- Establish a parent-teen contract. State laws help place teens in lower-threat situations, but parents should still determine the driving limits, privileges and responsibilities that are right for their teens. A parent-teen contract can help establish these boundaries. Families can find a sample contract at TeenDriving.AAA.com/OK.
- Take advantage of AAA resources. AAA offers a host of tools and programs to help families through teens’ learning-to-drive years. “Take the Wheel” is a parent-taught driver’s education program that qualifies as bone fide driver’s ed. under the Oklahoma’s GDL law, allowing teens to drive at an earlier age. Teens who complete the course are eligible for the standard driver’s ed. discount on their auto insurance. Visit AAA.com/TakeTheWheel.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic crashes continue to be the leading cause of deaths for teens. Last year in Oklahoma, there were 14,266 crashes involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 19. In these crashes, 30 teen drivers and 28 teen passengers were killed. While the number is down substantially since before the state’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law took effect, AAA believes there is still room for improvement.
A not-for-profit organization, AAA Oklahoma serves its 363,000 members across Oklahoma with emergency help on the road, auto travel assistance and a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 44 retail branches, regional operations center and the Internet at www.AAA.com.