AAA Survey Finds Parents Unaware of Crash Risk for Teens


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BURNSVILLE, Minn. October 16, 2008: Many parents allow their children to ride in cars under conditions they know are dangerous. Furthermore, parents are unaware of the increasing risk of dying in a crash their young teens face well before they reach driving age. These are two of many gaps between parental knowledge, behavior and traffic safety facts revealed by a new AAA survey of parents of children ages 12 to 17.

An overwhelming majority of parents of teen drivers correctly identified the dangers of driving with multiple teen passengers (96 percent) or even one teen passenger (65 percent), yet nearly half of parents say their teen rides with another teen driver at least once a week. More than one in seven parents of non-driving teens allow their child to ride with another teen at least weekly, as do some (5 percent) parents of junior high students.

Even if their teen is not driving yet, parents need to make driver safety a priority, said Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. Teen crash risks increase long before teens start driving by themselves, so parents should talk to their children about being a safe passenger.

AAA offers the following tips for parents:

If your teen is not yet driving:

  • Your child is safest not riding with another teen driver. If your teen must do so, it should be without additional teen passengers, not at night, and with a responsible driver.
  • Help your teen recognize dangerous driving conditions, such as the driver has been drinking, is tired, has multiple teen passengers, or is otherwise unsafe.
  • Talk about being a safe, responsible passenger. Your teen should know to wear a seat belt; refrain from distracting the driver by talking, playing loud music; and to speak up if the driver is being unsafe.

If your teen is learning to drive:

  • Learn your state licensing process and compare it to what AAA and other safety groups suggest. Most states fall short of what safety experts consider best practice. New teen drivers need lots of practice, measured in both hours of driving and months of having a learners permit.
  • Learn about parent-teen driving agreements which can be found on www.AAA.com/publicaffairs, to help families establish rules and consequences for driving before a teen gets behind the wheel.
  • Select a quality driving school. Professional instructors provide comprehensive training that addresses mistakes new drivers are most likely to make.
  • Talk about passenger safety. Safety tips for younger passengers hold true for high school students riding with their driving schoolmates.

If your teen is allowed to drive:

  • Review your states graduated driver licensing process and suggestions by safety experts on night driving and teen passenger limits.
  • Establish your parent-teen driving agreement. Agreements are meant to change with time, rewarding the teen with additional privileges for safe driving.
  • Enforce rules about seat belts, drunk or distracted drivers. As teens get older, they become increasingly mobile and their exposure to dangerous conditions increases.

The complete survey including additional findings on parents knowledge, attitudes and behavior can be downloaded at AAA.

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