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When teen drivers are most at risk

Teens' most common mistakes that lead to accidents in their first month on the road include speeding, failing to yield, and not paying attention.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 17, 2011 9:45AM

This post comes from Michelle Megna at partner site on MSN MoneyThe first 30 days solo behind the wheel are the most dangerous for teen drivers, who are 50% more likely to crash during that time than they are after a year of experience on the road, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.


They're also twice as likely to get into a wreck in that first month as they are after two years of driving on their own, the study says. The most common mistakes causing an accident during the first month in which teens were at least partially responsible include speeding, not paying attention, and failure to yield.


Teen drivers, by default, are inexperienced -- but fortunately they learn fast.


The study analyzed specific types of collisions in relation to how long the driver had been licensed and found that some types of crashes significantly decreased as experience increased. For instance, wrecks involving left turns were common during the first few months, but declined almost immediately, according to the study.


"We know that young drivers' crash rates decrease quickly as they gain experience. 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," Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation president and CEO, said in a statement.


The study is timely: Car accidents are the leading cause of death among teens, and the annual National Teen Driver Safety Week kicks off Dec. 16, with the theme this year focusing on ways to help parents teach their teens to drive. Post continues after video about the deadliest day on the road for teens.

"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," Kissinger said. "Continued parent engagement can help teens gain needed driving experience and shape their habits for a lifetime of safe driving."


Limiting the number of passengers and prohibiting driving at night are two ways parents can help keep their inexperienced teen drivers safe, says Bill Wade, national program manager of Street Survival, a group that teaches teen driving safety.


Many states already use this strategy by enacting graduated driver's license rules, he said, but parents still need to be vigilant.

"For a 16-year-old driver, the incident rate goes up 35% when there's another 16-year-old in the car, and when there's two passengers that age, it goes up 70%, so things like limiting passengers, these things are important," says Wade. "These kids are not drinking, they're not necessarily doing anything wrong, they're just 16-year-olds driving."


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