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Teen Crash Risk High in First Month of Driving, Study Finds

FRIDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Teen drivers are 50 percent more likely to crash within the first month of getting their driver's license than they are after driving for a full year, according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Moreover, these new drivers are nearly twice as likely to crash in the first month as they are after two full years behind the wheel, the study found.

However, parents can help teens prevent accidents by setting limits and helping them master driving skills in all types of driving conditions, the traffic safety experts pointed out.

In conducting the research for the AAA Foundation, investigators at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center pinpointed three common mistakes new teenage drivers make, including: speeding; not paying attention; and failing to yield.

These three mistakes, the study noted, accounted for 57 percent of all the crashes for which teens were even partially responsible.

Certain types of crashes -- such as accidents involving left-hand turns -- were more common during the first few months of driving but quickly declined as teens gained experience, the researchers noted.

Some accidents occur, however, not because of inexperience, but because new drivers fail to master certain driving skills, the study pointed out.

"We know that young drivers' crash rates decrease quickly as they gain experience. What our new study tells us is that there are a few specific abilities that we could do a better job of helping teens develop before they begin driving independently," AAA Foundation president and CEO Peter Kissinger, said in an AAA news release.

A separate study, which relied on in-vehicle cameras, found that while they are learning to drive with their parents, teens stick to routine trips on familiar roads with optimal driving conditions. Once they are licensed and unsupervised, however, the teens' driving deteriorated, resulting in some close calls, texting while driving, horseplay with passengers, running red lights and other potentially dangerous behaviors.

"This research serves as a great reminder for parents to stay involved in the learning process even after the law allows teens to drive without a parent in the car," added Kissinger. "Continued parent engagement can help teens gain needed driving experience and shape their habits for a lifetime of safe driving."

The experts advised parents of several steps they can take to keep their children safe when they are on the road on their own, including:

  • Continue to practice with teens even after they get their driver's license to help them master basic driving skills in all types of driving conditions, including snow and heavy traffic.
  • Limit passengers. The risk for crashes increases significantly with teenage passengers in the car.
  • Avoid night driving. Because there is reduced visibility, inexperienced teen drivers shouldn't drive at night unless it is necessary or when practicing with an adult.
  • Parents should set clear rules about when and where their teens are allowed to drive. Limits should be set on bad weather, highways, cities or other difficult driving conditions.

And, the AAA experts added, parents should be firm and enforce the limits and rules they set on their teen's driving.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about teen drivers.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: AAA Foundation, news release, Oct. 11, 2011

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