Washington, D.C.— According to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen drivers are approximately 50 percent more likely to crash in the first month of driving than they are after a full year of experience driving on their own, and are nearly twice as likely to crash as they are after two full years of experience.
Analyzing the crashes of new drivers 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 in which teens were at least partially responsible during their first month of licensed driving. Additionally, when researchers looked at specific types of crashes in relation to how long the driver had been licensed, they found that some types of crashes occurred at relatively high rates at first and declined particularly quickly with experience. For example, crashes involving left hand turns were common during the first few months of driving but declined almost immediately.
The study underscores the distraction danger faced by teen drivers, which was also illustrated in a 2010 study by the Texas Transportation Institute. That study showed a trend of increasing nighttime fatal crashes over the past 10 years.
The high initial rate and subsequent steep decline in certain types of crashes appeared to reflect teens’ initial inexperience followed by rapid learning. Crash types that decline more slowly appear to result not from lack of understanding, but from failure to master certain driving skills.
“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,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger.
The study was released a week before National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 16–22). Find out more at the Teens in the Driver Seat website.
Read the full news release.