Portland, ME —Recent findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reinforce that parents who spend more time, practice in a wider variety of situations and share their safe driving vision, have novice drivers that develop the necessary skills to become safer drivers.
“Teens continue to have the highest crash rate of any age group, so it’s critical that parents are involved and use evidence-based techniques that work,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs AAA Northern New England. “These recommended coaching techniques may seem rather obvious, yet research findings show that parents aren’t regularly practicing them. For example, one Foundation study that surveyed parents and teens during the process of learning to drive found:
Nearly 1/2 of parents reported they wanted their teens to get “a lot of practice,” 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 1/2 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 play a huge role in helping their teens gain as much experience as possible before they get intermediate licenses and start to drive solo. AAA recommends at least 100 hours. This time is a great investment in your teen’s future driving safety and skills
Parents should be prepared for the task. Before you begin, ask yourself a few questions.
Can you dedicate several hours a week to practice driving with your teen? AAA recommends your teen complete at least 100 hours of supervised practice driving before being allowed to drive solo.
Are you committed to coaching in different driving conditions and at different times of the day? It’s best to start off in basic low-risk situations and gradually move to more complex situations, such as highways and driving in the rain.
Are you patient enough to provide constructive feedback? There may be times when you want to yell, but remind yourself to remain calm, patient and positive and talk through the driving choices your teen makes. When necessary, agree to take a breather and work it out.
Are you a good role model? Your teen has been watching you drive for years, but you might want to step up your driving game now. Always wear your safety belt, obey traffic laws, never talk or text on the phone while driving, don’t speed—the list goes on and on, but remember, lead by example. Consider taking a driver refresher class.
Stay in contact with your students driver education instructor during the driver education class.
This can help you keep abreast of his/her progress. Riding along with your student and the instructor can also provide good insight on the teaching process and allow you to get comfortable with your student driving.
AAA’s recommendations for being a good driving coach:
Practice with your teen. Plan for as much supervised practice behind the wheel as possible. It’s the key to helping your teen develop skills to become a safe driver.
Select a goal for each session. For example, you may want your teen to focus on identifying potential hazards ahead or accelerating and braking smoothly.
Take regular breaks. Stop every 20 minutes or so and review the past few minutes of driving to help your teen process the experience. If your teen did something dangerous behind the wheel, explain why and discuss potential consequences.
Agree on how to communicate before you drive. For example, establish that the word “right” will be used as the opposite of “left” rather than as an affirmation (“correct”).
Keep it interesting. Change the time of day, driving conditions and routes to allow your teen to gain confidence in diverse situations.
Try out progressively more challenging driving situations. These can include parking garages, urban areas and interstate driving, for example.
Use “commentary driving.” This means having your teen drive and provide feedback about any object or event you encounter that could result in the need to change speed, direction or both.
Be patient. You and your teen may become stressed during these sessions. Remaining relaxed and even-tempered can go a long way toward reducing your new driver’s stress and help improve driving skills.
Be positive. Remember to point out and reinforce good driving behavior.
They Just got their license…Done? Finished? Complete? Well……not quite.
Teen drivers still need their parents’ advice and support—even after they have started driving by themselves. Their crash risk is highest now that they are driving on their own, so parents should still be coaching them behind the wheel, guiding their learning and monitoring where, when and with whom they drive. AAA recommends parents and teens establish a “parent/teen driving agreement” that sets expectations and clearly defines consequences. Sample agreements can be found at www.teendriving.aaa.com.
As a leader in driver education for nearly eight decades, AAA has a wide range of tools available to help parents simplify the learning-to-drive process including parent-teen driving agreements, licensing information and a free web-based parent support e-newsletter program created in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. Visit www.teendriving.aaa.com to learn more about the resources for parents and new teen drivers.
“Are You Smarter Than Your Teen Driver?” to encourage parents to share their experience with younger drivers, AAA is launching a national contest soliciting the best driving advice that parents wish to share with teen drivers, along with a chance to challenge their own driving smarts by taking this quiz. Parents can submit entries at Contest.TeenDriving.AAA.com from October 21 through December 11 and will be eligible to win prizes including an iPad®mini and VISA®gift cards.