The facts are well known: teenagers have the highest crash rate of any age group in the United States, and the most dangerous time is when they drive on their own after being licensed.
But there has been little research conducted as they transition from supervised to unsupervised driving, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit research and educational organization.
The foundation released two new studies in conjunction with National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 16-22) that provide insight into teenage driving behavior and their crashes during this critical period.
Teen drivers are about 50 percent more likely to crash in the first month of unsupervised driving than they are after a full year of experience driving on their own, and they are nearly twice as likely to crash in their first month as they are after two full years of experience, according to Measuring Changes in Teenage Driver Crash Characteristics During the Early Months of Driving.
A second report, Transition to Unsupervised Driving, used in-vehicle cameras to follow teens during the first six months of licensed driving without their parents in the car. (An earlier phase of the study collected data from cameras during the period when the teens were learning to drive under their parents’ supervision.) While the vast majority of driving caught on camera was uneventful and only a small number of deliberate risk-taking behaviors were observed, the study did reflect that the teens’ behavior shifted when their parents were not present. For example, the vast majority of “close calls” involved judgment errors that seemed to indicate inexperience and failure to anticipate changes in the traffic environment.