Driving Safety Linda Gorman

Teens from all over the state are anxiously ditching backpacks and books for a variety of summer activities. These less structured days often mean more time behind the wheel as these young drivers have the time and the desire to gain much-needed driving experience. Before handing over the keys, parents should know car crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens, with the next three months being acutely dangerous for teens.

Based on the number of miles driven, teen drivers have triple the fatality rate of adult drivers, and the first 1,000 miles of unsupervised are especially risky. From 2007 to 2012, nearly 220 teens were killed on Arizona roadways, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. And while teens are at risk every time they get behind the wheel, summertime is particularly dangerous due to more time behind the wheel, which is often unsupervised as parents and caregivers are working. In addition, teens tend to drive friends and siblings around more often during the summer, a habit that causes existing risks to skyrocket.

As a leader in driver safety, AAA urges parents to establish specific rules with their teen drivers, especially during the high-risk summer months. Below are some tips parents can use to keep their kids safe year-round, including summer break:

• Agree to agree. Written agreements between parents and teens help enforce clear rules about night driving, passengers, access to the car, and more. AAA Insurance offers a parent-teen driving agreement on its teen driver safety website, Keys2Drive. The website also offers a variety of additional tools and resources for parents and teens as they progress through the learning-to-drive process.

• Understand distraction risks. Cell phones represent a huge distraction for all teen drivers; however, recent data shows that female teen drivers were twice as likely as male drivers to use cell phones while driving. In addition, passengers are a major distraction for teen drivers as a whole; however, 16-year-old males may have an acute risk, as research shows that they are most likely to have a passenger in the vehicle at the time of a crash. Passengers are a serious risk as a whole, as fatal crash rates have been shown to quintuple when two or more passengers are present while an unsupervised teen driver is behind the wheel. For these reasons, AAA urges parents to discuss these inherent distraction risks.

• Use driving training tools. Enhance your teen’s driving, critical thinking and decision-making skills with driver training. AAA offers programs such as teenSMART, which can earn up to 24 percent off your teen’s AAA auto insurance upon completion; Teaching Your Teens to Drive, which helps guide parents who choose to teach their teens to drive themselves; and Driver-ZED, which helps teens practice recognizing and avoiding road hazards.

• Permit Prep Challenge. Teens who are approaching driving age should consider attending AAA’s Permit Prep Challenge. This free 90-minute workshop prepares teens for their written permit test and educates families on what they need to know before their new driver takes the wheel. More than 500 teens and parents have attended these workshops since the beginning of the year. June 11 and June 26 are the next scheduled workshops in the Phoenix area. Visit https://www.az.aaa.com/news/traffic-safety/permit-prep-101 for information.

For more information on AAA’s resources for parents and teens, visit az.aaa.com/news/traffic-safety/teendriver.

• Linda Gorman is communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or lgorman@arizona.aaa.com.

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