Study reveals key information for Colorado teen drivers and their parents

While parents say they are vested in their teen driver’s safety, a study found that busy schedules get in the way of providing real-world experience.

Colorado has a graduated driver's license program as well as laws regarding teenage drivers. For example, according to the state's Department of Transportation, there are curfew, passenger and cellphone restrictions in place for teenagers.

The DOT also provides information for parents regarding how to safely guide their young drivers on the right path. However, according to a recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, parents often say they are vested in their kids' driving habits but seem to lack the follow-through.

Study background

Researchers from the foundation analyzed families with teenagers who held learner's permits in North Carolina. Each family's vehicle had a camera installed, and the parents underwent 10 interviews throughout the year-long process. The point of the study was to observe the type of driving practice teenagers received as well as examine how the drivers and their parents interacted with each other.

Busy schedules

One important outcome of the study is that the teens involved reportedly received on average 1.6 hours a week practicing their driving skills, a necessary step in avoiding car accidents. When asked why the young drivers were not hitting the road more often, the majority of parents - 70 percent - stated that both they and their child had busy schedules. Additionally, 40 percent of study participants said the teenager simply was not interested in gaining more experience.

The right kind of practice

Compounding the issue further is that not only did many teens not receive much practice, but they also were not likely to receive the right kind of practice. Researchers found that most of the driving took place on routine trips and in safe conditions. In fact, only approximately one in four parents said they exposed the teen driver to new situations, such as the following:

  • Poor weather
  • New roads
  • New traffic patterns
  • Nighttime driving
  • Highways

Not surprisingly, 47 percent of parents stated in the final interview that they were still uncomfortable with at least one scenario that their teenager could encounter while driving unsupervised. Thirty-seven percent of those families allowed the teenager to proceed with getting a license.

Room for improvement

In today's busy world, it can be difficult for parents to fit driving lessons into their schedules. However, it is imperative to do so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the leading cause of death for people 16 to 19 years old is a car accident.

The study found few instances of parents providing teenagers with high-level critique, such as forcing them to anticipate other drivers' behavior or scanning surroundings for pedestrians, bicyclists or other potential issues. Parents can have an instrumental influence over their teens as they learn to drive. Setting a good example, providing plenty of supervised practice time and reinforcing Colorado's existing laws can lay a solid foundation for safety.

Unfortunately, accidents can and will happen. When they do, victims have the right to seek legal help by consulting with an attorney.