Teen Driver Q&A
Feb.15, 2007 • Graduated Driver Licensing News Conference
Why is AAA telling parents to “Keep the Keys”?
AAA is proposing that parents “keep the keys” from their
teenage driver until they have an agreement on the “house rules”
for earning and keeping the privilege of driving. AAA has a sample Parent-Teen
Agreement on www.aaa.com/publicaffairs. It can be used by parents as
a guide for discussing and reaching agreement with their teen on such
issues as night driving limits, teen passenger limits and even cell
phone use. It describes commitments from the parents and the teen, and
outlines such things as responsibilities, courtesy and issues that can
lead to a loss of privileges.
Why is AAA challenging state lawmakers to pass more GDL
As this study shows, enactment of laws is key to increasing teen driver
safety. By strengthening the GDL systems in their states to include
the components identified in this study, legislators can take a substantial
step forward toward saving teen lives and reducing injuries.
Why are teenage drivers a high risk group?
Teens are at higher risk for a crash because of lack of experience
and adolescent risk taking behavior. Many teens are responsible drivers;
however, they are involved in more crashes due to poor judgment, inadequate
driving skills and risky behavior associated with normal adolescent
Does driver education make young drivers safer?
Driver education can contribute to safe driving by increasing the supervised,
behind-the-wheel practice time as new drivers gain experience and develop
their skills. [Note: There are no current studies yet showing that any
particular driver education course reduces crashes. That doesn’t
mean none are effective; just that we haven’t been able to demonstrate
effectiveness in a study yet].
Why is AAA recommending that states impose passenger restrictions
on teen drivers?
- As this study shows, limiting the number of teens in vehicles driven
by teens will reduce the number of people injured and killed in teen-related
- Research shows that having a teenage passenger increases the risk
of a teen driver being in a fatal crash. The risk increases with additional
- Passenger restrictions may be inconvenient for parents and teens,
but they are effective at saving teen lives.
Are all of these crashes the teen’s fault?
- It is difficult to assign specific fault in any motor vehicle crash
– meaning a particular action caused the crash – and this
report does not assign fault. But, we know that teens have the highest
number of deaths per vehicle mile traveled of any age group and when
they crash, other people are also injured and killed. Teen drivers’
crash risk is largely due to inexperience and poor decision making
- The fault lies in the system that, in too many states, lets teens
drive without the experience they need, allowing them to get into
situations (driving at night and with teen passengers) where they
make deadly mistakes.
- If we don’t all collectively demand that legislators in states
with weak laws improve these laws to keep teens safe and protect the
safety of everyone on the road, these crashes will be OUR FAULT.
What specific solutions is AAA offering to reduce teen
- Parents. Regardless of how lax or strict their state’s GDL
law is, parents play a critical role and should enforce their own
rules for teen drivers.
- Parents should restrict their teens from riding with other teen
drivers and prohibit their teens from carrying any passengers during
the first year of driving.
- Parents should limit their teens’ nighttime driving.
- The Parent-Teen Agreement can help families work together to ensure
their teens gain driving experience in the safest driving environment
- Strengthening graduated driver licensing. AAA believes, and this
study shows, that strengthening GDL laws is a vital component in the
effort to reduce crashes.
- Because of AAA’s advocacy during the past decade, all 50 states
and the District of Columbia have some form of graduated driver licensing
- The challenge now is to strengthen these laws to make them more
Does AAA offer any resources to help teen drivers gain more experience?
- The AAA Foundation has released an update of their popular educational
tool for parents, an interactive DVD called Driver-ZED. More information
can be found at the Web site www.driverzed.org.
- Teaching Your Teens To Drive is a colorfully illustrated handbook
and live-action video that parents can use to help their teens become
safe, knowledgeable drivers. It can be ordered on the Web at by calling
- Many AAA clubs offer driver education, both classroom and behind
the wheel. Find information from your local club at www.aaa.com.
- AAA has developed model language specifically designed for state
Departments of Motor Vehicles Web sites aimed at helping parents better
understand the teen crash problem and their role in turning their
teens into safe adult drivers. This model language can be found at
AAA produced this Web content after a survey of state DMV sites revealed
that many fall short on basic content helpful for parents in developing
their young drivers.
What is GDL?
Graduated driver licensing, or GDL, laws help ensure new drivers are
prepared prior to hitting the road on their own. GDL systems gradually
introduce teens to the road and require them to progress through three
stages before receiving full driving privileges. Teens typically spend
3-12 months in each of the first two stages. In most cases, early stages
include conditions such as driving curfews, limits on the number and
age of passengers, and requirements for adult-supervised, behind-the-wheel
- The learner’s permit stage is when a novice driver practices
basic driving skills and safe driving practices under totally supervised
conditions for a set number of hours (10 hours nighttime).
- A restricted or probationary license stage allows unsupervised
driving during lower-risk times of the day with nighttime restrictions
from at least midnight to 5 a.m. and passenger restrictions prohibiting
teen passengers for the first six months or longer.
- A full, unrestricted license is issued after the successful completion
of stage two.
Have GDL laws been shown to be effective?
As this study demonstrates, GDL laws are effective at lowering crash
rates for teens. Having a three-stage GDL program is more effective,
and programs that put limitations teens, such as fewer night driving
hours and having fewer teens in the vehicle, have a greater ability
to save lives.