The figures are jolting. Teen drivers were involved in nearly 14,000 fatal crashes over the past years, according to figures released by AAA. About 30% of these tragedies involved speeding.
That’s why safety advocates are showcasing National Teen Driver Safety Week. Elizabeth Carey, public affairs manager at AAA Western and Central New York, said it’s a week that alerts people to common dangers.
"Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States,” Carey told WBFO. “These teen drivers have higher rates of crashes per driver and per mile driven than any other driver from any other age groups. So it’s very important for these teen drivers to be aware of the dangers on the road and to take the driving seriously.”
AAA surveyed about 140 driver instructors, asking them to list three biggest mistakes they witness when they’re teaching new drivers.
“One of the things is poor visual scanning. So they really drive with tunnel vision, they don’t scan the whole road for any risk or hazard that might come up,” Carey said. “A second thing would be speeding, they go over the speed limits. The third would be distraction and a lot of times that’s because of those cell phones.”
But cell phones aren’t the only distractions, Carey added. Drivers can lose their concentration when they chat with passengers or focus on something else in the vehicle.
According to a fact sheet compiled by AAA, 970,000 drivers aged 16–19 were involved in police-reported crashes in 2014. These crashes resulted in more than 3,200 deaths and nearly 400,000 injuries.
Teen drivers and their families are encouraged to go to AAA’s website to view resources the organization provides to give tips of how to be safer behind the wheel.
Advocates stress that parents play a pivotal role in keeping roads safe, because teens often learn driving skills from watching their parents.
“They are picking up bad behaviors along with the good ones,” said Mike Formanowicz, the driver training manager for the region’s AAA. “So It’s up to today’s parents to set a good example. It may end up saving their children’s lives.”