A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that teenage drivers are most likely to have a car accident within their first month of unsupervised driving. Teen drivers are 50 percent more likely to crash in the first month than after a year of solo driving, and twice as likely to crash during the first month than after two years of driving experience.
AAA conducted the study by analyzing video from cameras mounted in the cars of 38 teenage drivers in North Carolina. The cameras were present while the teens were learning to drive with their parents, and then for the teen’s first six months of licensed solo driving.
The researchers found that 57 percent of accidents caused by teens in their first month of driving were due to driving too fast, inattention, or failing to yield to other cars. Crashes involving left-hand turns across traffic were far higher in the first few months of driving, leading AAA to conclude that teenagers need more instruction time to safely negotiate certain driving maneuvers.
“We know that young drivers’ crash rates decrease quickly as they gain experience,” AAA Foundation president and CEO Peter Kissinger said in a statement. “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.”
Reviewing the camera footage also revealed that the teenagers’ driving behavior changed dramatically after they began driving without their parents. While driving with parents on learners’ permits, teenagers tended to travel familiar routes in “relatively easy driving conditions.” Once licensed and driving alone, teenagers drove new routes and exhibited behavior like sending text messages, running red lights, or socializing with passengers while driving.
The AAA Foundation recommends steps like limiting how often new drivers drive at night, or limiting the number of passengers in a new drivers’ car. An August 2011 survey from Allstate Insurance revealed that 76 percent of Americans support raising the age at which teenagers can learn to drive, while 69 percent favor improved graduated licensing programs.
Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety