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Teen Drivers' Crash Rates

The first month of licensed driving is also the highest for accidents. Here's what you can do to help your teenager develop the skills they need before they go solo.

father handing teen the keys to the car, image
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Parents can get involved in helping their teens learn to drive safely by using AAA resources.

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows what many of us may already suspect: Teen drivers are particularly dangerous in the first few months of their transition from supervised driving with their parents to driving on their own. Members of this group are 50 percent more likely to crash in the first month of solo driving than they are after their first full year.

In North Carolina, researchers found that three common mistakes—failure to reduce speed, inattention, and failure to yield—accounted for 57 percent of all crashes that were caused at least in part by teens in their first month of licensed driving. Some types of crashes, such as those involving left turns, occurred at relatively high rates at first and then declined quickly. The high early rates and subsequent steep drop-offs suggest that teens’ initial inexperience is followed by rapid learning.

“We know that young drivers’ crash rates decrease quickly as they gain experience,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “What our new study tells us is that we could do a better job of helping teens develop their skills before they start driving on their own.”

AAA urges parents to get involved in helping their teens learn to drive safely by visiting our website created for that purpose, You’ll find useful facts and recommendations for the time when your teen gets behind the wheel. The interactive site gives users specific information based on where they live and their stage in the learning process—from preparing to drive (pre-permit) to the learner’s permit period to solo driving.

Photography by Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock

This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.