Risky time on the road for inexperienced drivers as COVID-19 restrictions ease

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Utah (ABC4 News) – As new teen drivers begin to take to the road this summer, could there a dangerous risk looming? With schools being closed, a lack of summer activities due to social distancing guidelines and COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, AAA Utah recommends parents take the opportunity to model safe driving behaviors and make sure their teen driver exercises them as well.

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The pandemic has caused the closure of some DMV’s across the country due to COVID-19, some states have waived the road test for teens, allowing a driver permit to be graduated to a license as long as the driver has met state specified guidelines.  AAA believes it is imperative for teens to have adequate training and would benefit from additional practice before receiving their license.  

AAA Utah says 87 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in Utah in the past ten years during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Nationally, more than 8,300 people died in teen-related summertime wrecks from 2008-2018. Per day, that’s about seven people who lost their lives, compared to the rest of the year, about six people a day.

Aldo Vasquez, AAA Utah spokesperson said “The last decade of crash data shows that teens continue to be over-represented in crashes and summertime marks an increase of fatal crashes for this age group. “Our data analysis has found that for every mile driven, new teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults.”

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Teen drivers are at higher risk of crashes due to their inexperience behind the wheel. According to the new AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, about 72% of teen drivers aged 16-18 admitting to having engaged in at least one of the following risky behaviors in the past 30 days: 

  •  Driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street (47%)
  • Driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway (40%)
  • Texting (35%)
  • Red-Light Running (32%)
  • Aggressive driving (31%)
  • Drowsy driving (25%)

 

Vazquez adds “parents remain the best line of defense to keep everyone safe behind the wheel, It’s never too early to educate teens on the dangers of distracted driving, speeding, and the impairing effects of alcohol and marijuana. But we can’t just tell teens about the dangers. We must also refrain from engaging in risky driving behaviors ourselves and ensure we are modeling good behavior.”

AAA encourages parents do the following to keep roads safer this summer:

  • Talk with teens early and often about abstaining from dangerous behavior behind the wheel, such as speeding, impairment and distracted driving.
  • Teach by example, and minimize risky behavior when driving.
  • Establish a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.
  • Conduct at least 50 hours of supervised practice driving with their teen. 

Ultimately, AAA Utah says Parents should be actively involved in their teens drivers-education experience and to be objective as possible when evaluating whether the teen’s driving skills is applicable for everyday driving.

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