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Program helps parents coach teen drivers

Parents who ensure that teens get ample practice in a wide variety of situations and transfer their safe driving wisdom to their novice drivers are more likely to help their teens develop the necessary skills to be safer drivers, according to a series of research studies from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In step with AAA’s advice that parents should spend more time with their teen drivers so they can build as much experience as possible before driving solo, these new findings provide evidence as to how parents can most effectively work with their teens.

While current tools on the market focus on teen education, AAA used this insight in the development of a new drivers education tool for parents — AAA’s StartSmart Online Parent Session.

Grounded in principles of adult learning, the program helps parents be more effective driving coaches as their teens learn to drive.

“Teens continue to have the highest crash rate of any age group, so it’s critical that parents are involved and use evidence-based techniques that work,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “These recommended coaching techniques may seem rather obvious; yet research findings show that parents aren’t regularly practicing these techniques.”

For example, one AAA Foundation study that surveyed parents and teens during the process of learning to drive finds:

Nearly half of parents reported they wanted their teens to get “a lot of practice,” when asked about their plans for their teens’ driving. Yet, only about one in four parents mentioned practicing under a variety of situations or conditions, such as in bad weather, heavy traffic or on unfamiliar roads.

Nearly half of parents (47 percent) reported that there was still at least one condition in which they were not comfortable allowing their teen to drive unsupervised even after they passed their driving test and got their license to drive independently.

Few parents in the study were observed sharing more complex driving tips — such as visual scanning or anticipating other drivers’ behaviors — with their teen drivers.

“Parents should make sure that their teens get experience behind the wheel beyond getting practice on routine trips on familiar roads,” adds Dodds. “Often, parents will let kids drive to school or to the grocery store, but they don’t get practice driving on unfamiliar roads or in challenging weather conditions.”

With the roll-out of the StartSmart Online Parent Session, AAA aims to give parents easy access to the most useful parenting practices for supervising and managing a teen driver. Through interactive elements and demonstrations, the 2-hour program covers everything a parent needs to know, including a discussion about the situations and challenges they will most likely experience during supervised driving practice.

The SmartSmart Online Parent Session is being launched in conjunction with AAA’s new How to Drive Online novice driver education program. While parent supervision requirements do vary by state, the program is available nationwide and can be found at teendriving.aaa.com.

As a leader in driver education for nearly eight decades, AAA has a wide range of tools available to help parents simplify the learning-to-drive process including parent-teen driving agreements, licensing information and a free web-based parent support e-newsletter program created in partnership with the National Institutes of Health.

To encourage parents to share their wisdom with younger drivers, AAA is launching a national contest soliciting the best driving advice that parents wish to impart on teen drivers, along with a chance to challenge their own driving smarts by taking the “Are You Smarter than Your Teen Driver?” quiz. Parents can submit entries at contest.teendriving.aaa.com through Dec. 11 and will be eligible to win prizes including an iPad mini and VISA gift cards.

Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is an independent, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur.

Visit aaafoundation.org or facebook.com/AAAFTS for more information.

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