Aurora, Illinois – Teenage drivers are most likely to crash during their first month of driving on their own than they are after a full year of experience, according to a new study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Teen drivers are approximately 50 per cent more likely to crash in the first month than after a year, and nearly twice as likely to crash as they are after two full years of experience.

Analyzing the crashes of new drivers in North Carolina, researchers found that failure to reduce speed, inattention, and failure to yield accounted for 57 per cent of all crashes in which teens were at least partially responsible during their first month of licensed driving.

Additionally, when researchers looked at specific types of crashes in relation to how long the driver had been licensed, they found that some types of crashes occurred at relatively high rates at first, and then declined quickly with experience, including crashes involving left-hand turns. The high initial rate and subsequent steep decline appeared to reflect teens’ initial inexperience, followed by rapid learning. Crash types that decline more slowly appear to result not from lack of understanding, but from failure to master certain driving skills.

A related study used in-vehicle cameras to monitor teens when they were learning to drive with parents, followed by the first six months of licensed driving without their parents in the car. The study found that while teens had their learner’s permits, the bulk of time spent behind the wheel was on routine trips on familiar roads under relatively easy driving conditions.

Without a parent in the car, the vast majority of driving caught on camera was uneventful, but the study did capture a number of close calls due to simple mistakes likely attributable to inexperience, along with a few instances of texting behind the wheel, horseplay with passengers, running red lights and other distracting behaviours.

“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,” said Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation CEO and president. “Continued parent engagement can help teens gain needed driving experience and shape their habits for a lifetime of safe driving.”

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