After school hours dangerous for teens who drive, says AAA analysis

November 5, 2006

Many parents rightfully worry about their kids being on the road on Friday and Saturday nights, but a new AAA analysis of crash data shows another time of the week – the after school hours – rivals weekend nights as the most deadly for teen drivers. The data provided solid evidence that parents need to be just as focused on monitoring their teens’ driving on Monday through Friday afternoons as during the weekend nights they’ve been conditioned to worry about, according to AAA.

In analysis of crash data, AAA found that nearly as many 16- and 17-year-old drivers were involved in fatal crashes between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as they were involved in on Friday and Saturday nights between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Between 2002 and 2005, the totals were 1,100 and 1,237, respectively, for the weekday and weekend periods.

“There are a lot of teens on the roads during the after school hours – driving home from school, to after school jobs, to sports and other activities, and out driving with their friends,” said Jack Peet, manager of Community Safety Services for AAA Michigan. “You also find many teens doing dangerous things behind the wheel during these unstructured hours between the end of school and when parents get home from work.”

AAA also noted that during the afternoon hours, there is a lot of traffic on the roads, with commuters and adults making other trips, which makes driving more difficult for new teen drivers.

While the implementation of night driving limits for new teen drivers in 44 states has drawn attention to the late night hours when teens’ crash risk is highest, AAA says parents should be just as diligent in monitoring their teens’ daily afternoon driving as they would be on a Friday or Saturday night.

AAA recommends that parents do the following:

1) Set very clear driving rules with your teen. Following the rules leads to a teen gradually increasing the driving he of she may do. Breaking the rules leads to fewer liberties. Parents can find a parent-teen driver agreement at http://www.aaa.com/ publicaffairs .

2) Prohibit their new teen driver from carrying passengers during at least the first three months of driving. Permit no more than one passenger for the rest of the first year of independent driving. Crash rates increase drastically for 16- and 17-year-old drivers as you add young passengers to a car. Thirty-five states limit passengers for new teen drivers. Every parent should do the same thing – regardless of state law.

3) Do not permit your teen to ride with a new teen driver. Carpooling seems like a sensible way for teens to ride to school, home and activities, but it can promote risky passenger behavior. Research shows that it is more dangerous for several teens to ride in one car than for them to drive individually in multiple vehicles.

4) Ban the cell phone. Teens have trouble managing distractions, especially while driving. Even if there is no law in your state, it should be a family rule.

5) Require your teen to wear a seat belt every time he or she rides in a car. Teens have the lowest belt use rate of any age group, a tragic irony given that new teen drivers have the highest crash rates.

6) Make your rules known to other adults in your teen’s life. A parent-to-parent agreement with your teen driver’s friends can establish standard rules among a group of teenagers, making gradual licensure easier for everyone. Letting your neighbors know your teen’s driving rules can give you extra sets of eyes when you’re not around. You can also find a parent-to-parent agreement at http://www.aaa.com/publicaffairs.

“Parents should remember that ‘there is no better role model than you,” Peet said. “If you speed, tailgate and run red lights, your teen probably will, too. Be a positive role model for your young driver and make sure your teen understands your family’s driving rules.”

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