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November/December 2014 Issue

Teenagers who don’t take driver’s ed have more crashes and convictions

Skipping class in school can result in failure to do well, but when that class is driver’s education, the outcome is more serious than a bad grade. Not participating in a driver’s education course can lead to increased tickets and deadly crashes, new research from AAA shows.

Although vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens, fewer new drivers are participating in driver’s education, which used to be a rite of passage. State funding and requirements for these programs have declined over recent decades, leaving uneducated teen drivers vulnerable on America’s roads.

Indeed, a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that teenagers who skip this important step are involved in more crashes and receive more traffic convictions when compared to their peers who did participate in driver’s education.

“This research confirms what conventional wisdom tells us–driver education makes a difference,” said Dr. William Van Tassel, AAA manager of Driver Training Programs. “Despite recent declines in participation, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe new drivers should take part in this critical step of the learning-to-drive process.”

The study assessed examples of U.S. and Canadian driver’s education programs using a variety of evaluation methods including surveys, driver’s licensing tests, driver simulators, and the review of driving records. The results revealed that several key differences exist between teens who receive driver’s education and those who do not, including:

• Driver’s education is associated with a lower incidence of both crashes and convictions, reducing crashes by 4.3 percent and convictions by nearly 40 percent.

• Teens who completed driver’s education not only scored higher on the driving exam, they also demonstrated modest increases in knowledge over their peers who did not take any formal training.

To help keep teens safe on the roads, AAA has developed comprehensive resources, including, a state-specific Web site to help parents and teens navigate the learning-to-drive process.

teen with instructor

Teens who take driver’s education have 40 percent fewer convictions than those who don’t take the class.


Technology can’t replace alert drivers, study reveals

The highway stretches before you–a perfect opportunity to engage adaptive cruise control. Confident that the system will recognize surrounding traffic and adjust speed accordingly, you take a second to glance at your phone–long enough for a motorcycle to dart into your path and go undetected by the automated system.

“Technology is marvelous, but it’s not a substitute for an alert, engaged driver,” said Greg Brannon, director of AAA’s Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations department. “We have to resist the temptation to become distracted, even if we’re confident in the advanced driver assistance systems.”

AAA recently conducted test-track simulations to better understand the limitations of advanced driver assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control and autonomous braking, which can alert a driver to a potential crash, adjust the vehicle’s pace to maintain a pre-set speed, and even brake independently to avoid a crash.

Overall, the simulations demonstrated that adaptive cruise control did a good job of maintaining a specified following distance when traveling behind slower-moving vehicles in a highway setting. However, autonomous braking systems did not always recognize obstacles, provide a warning signal, or engage the brakes to slow or stop the vehicle. AAA’s research team also observed that:

• Even when operating as designed, following distance was closer than AAA’s recommended three-second following distance.

• Mastering the features requires experience. Signals, bells, and flashing lights can be startling; having your vehicle adjust speed on its own can be downright disconcerting. Each vehicle tested had a unique set of instruments and procedures, requiring time to learn how to operate the system.

System limitations are noted in owner’s manuals, including that some of the autonomous braking systems may not recognize or react to motorcycles, a stopped vehicle, or other obstructions. Yet few motorists actually read the manuals. AAA encourages motorists to become thoroughly familiar with all the technology in their car, including advanced driver assistance systems, to stay safe behind the wheel.


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