German poet Heinrich Heine once quipped, “Experience is a good school, but the fees are high.” Nowhere is this truer than in the first few months of teen driving, where accidents can jack up already-high insurance premiums on teenagers. A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety bears out this conventional wisdom: Teenage drivers are twice as likely to crash in their first month of driving, as they are during the first year of driving on their own.
What’s more, even after a year’s experience behind the wheel, they’re still twice as likely to crash than they are after two full years of driving. Researchers found that 57 percent of accidents caused by teens were from inattention, failure to yield, and failing to reduce speed. What’s more, teens learned quickly not to commit the same types of accidents again—once teens were involved in left-hand turn accidents during the first month, researchers found, they stopped committing them in the next few months.
Perhaps this isn’t surprising. Experience begets confidence, after all, and it speaks for itself. But the amount of experience a teenage driver gets can vary based on different attributes. If teens gained practice on familiar roads, for example, they could hone their driving skills under easy driving conditions. Parents need to be involved too, as researchers found that teens were more prone to commit simple mistakes—failing to use turn signals, texting, and fiddling with the radio –when they drove by themselves. AAA points to cutting down on distractions and setting parental rules as ways for teenagers to safely gain experience. The tight reign of adult supervision is a necessity in this case, and could one day save a life.
Photo courtesy of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety