Kate Hinds covers transportation for WNYC News.
Teens And Learning To Drive: Not Enough Practice, Not Enough Variation
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 03:27 PM
"Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States." And motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center installed cameras in the cars of 52 families for four months shortly after the teenagers obtained their learner's permits. (The sample videos on the AAA website range from bracing to hair-raising.) The tapes revealed parents often don't spend enough time teaching their teens to drive -- and they tend to stick to the same types of driving situations.
Supervised driving experience often accounted for less than two hours a week, and a lot of that experience was under benign conditions in residential neighborhoods. There was very little practice under more challenging circumstances-- highways, heavy city traffic, at night, or in bad weather.
The parent-teen relationship was also key, with many parents and teens struggling to maintain equilibrium during the emotionally charged process of learning to drive. On the one hand, you have to feel for the parents, whom the study says, has to balance being "a driving instructor, mentor, role model and psychologist." On the other hand: 16% of teens refused to drive with one of the parents because they perceived them as being hypercritical. But as always, perception is key: "From the driving clips, yelling between parents and teens was rarely observed. On the other hand, there were a number of instances where a teen told their parent to stop yelling when the parent’s voice was barely raised, if at all."
While most states require 50 hours of practice before a license is awarded, the AAA Foundation would like to see 100 hours of quality time. As the report says, "Parents in the present study seemed well aware that 'lots of driving experience' is key to learning. What they did not seem to grasp is the importance of 'appropriate experience."
Read the report here (pdf).
To see the permit and licensing systems are in each state, click here (pdf).
Watch clips of the driving videos here. (.wmv)