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Nov/Dec 2011 Issue

Parents are the first key to safer teen driving

Whether teens even realize it–or would admit it if they did–parents are the single most influential people in their lives, especially when it comes to learning how to drive.

Indeed, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to teen driving records, a study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found. Parents of collision-involved teens were more likely to have poor driving records themselves than parents of teens who do not have a record of tickets or crashes.

“Teens’ driving behaviors are a reflection of their parents’ driving behaviors,” said Mike Right, vice president of AAA Public Affairs. “Parents have more influence on their teens than they realize. Your children have been sitting in the car with you for years and watching you drive, so it’s only natural that they’d adopt your driving habits, good or bad.”

Adopting good driving habits is vital for teens, who have the worst record of all drivers on the road. Traffic crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for 16- to 19-year-olds. Even more alarming is that two-thirds of those who die in crashes involving teen drivers are other drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

To provide a good example, AAA encourages all drivers–especially parents–to wear their seat belts, drive the speed limit, never text, minimize phone use and other distractions and never exhibit road rage.

“You can tell your son or daughter to drive one way, but if they’ve seen you doing the exact opposite for years, the lesson will be lost,” Right said.

In addition to modeling good driving behaviors, parents must have good communication with their teens. The study found that parents of collision-involved teens were less likely than those of collision-free teens to report having “excellent” or “very good” communication with their teens on driving issues. In fact, the collision-involved teens indicated a lower amount of parental monitoring overall, not just in terms of the driving behavior.

Supervised driving sessions provide one of the most important avenues for communication about safe driving practices. AAA recommends at least 50 hours of supervised driving as part of a comprehensive graduated driver licensing (GDL) law, which is part of Louisiana’s GDL. Mississippi and Arkansas, however, have no requirements for certified practice.

“Getting plenty of practice in a range of traffic situations, weather conditions and on varying types of roads at different times of the day is vital to become a safe driver,” Right said. “Talk to your teens calmly about their mistakes, which are to be expected, and take advantage of teachable moments with constructive feedback.”

As teens work their way through the licensing process, it’s important that they know what is expected of them and the consequences if they violate the rules. A parent-teen driving agreement can help families navigate the learning process. It not only establishes driving as a privilege for teens with certain restrictions, but it places responsibilities on parents, too.

“Studies show parental involvement and restrictions significantly reduce risky behavior during a driver’s first 12 to 18 months behind the wheel,” Right said.

Parent and teen driver
AAA recommends at least 50 hours of supervised driving for teens learning to drive.


Dangers of drunk driving rise at night, during the holidays

There’s a good reason why December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.

With Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties taking place across the nation, it’s not surprising that approximately 40 percent of holiday traffic fatalities are related to alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). New research also shows that fatal crashes occur more frequently between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. year-round, which is when most people are leaving parties and bars.

In fact, during those three early morning hours, a drunk driving crash claims a life every 23 minutes. Two-thirds of fatal crashes during these pre-dawn hours involve drunk drivers, NHTSA reports. Such sobering statistics, however, have not had as much effect as they should on reducing drunk driving.

“While we have made great strides in reducing drunk driving over the years, tragically, drunk driving remains one of the leading causes of death and injury on America’s roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Every alcohol-related fatality is preventable. AAA encourages people who are planning to host or attend holiday parties to arrange for designated drivers and to never let friends drive drunk.

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