A year-long study involving the AAA Foundation and 50 North Carolina families from Durham and Chapel Hill investigated how parents and teens approach supervised driving during the learner’s permit stage of a North Carolina teen driver experience, the New York Times reports.
The process included 10 semi-structured interviews and the placement of an audio-video recorder in the vehicle primarily used for training sessions which was activated during incidents of hard acceleration, braking and turning. The interviews focused on the below objectives, with the following findings:
~ How parents approached their role of supervision. Specifically, did the parent have a structured or open-ended instruction plan, and had researched driving instruction methods?
FINDINGS: More than half of parents anticipated a lot of practice time under controlled conditions and about a quarter of parents anticipated having their teen practice under a host of diverse driving conditions.
~ How much supervised driving time a parent and teen would share on a weekly basis.
FINDINGS: On average, teens drove three times a week for a little more than an hour-and-a-half spent behind the wheel. On a per family basis, driving time ranged from 20 minutes to five hours per week.
~ How a typical driving practice session was structured and conditions under which a teen would practice driving.
FINDINGS: In general, the more time spent behind the wheel led to more sophisticated driving conditions (i.e., highway driving, driving in inclement weather or high-traffic situations). Initially, parents and teens mostly stuck to daytime driving in good weather conditions in residential areas where traffic was light. Seat belt use by both parents and teen drivers was nearly universal.
~ How teen driving skills improved over time.
FINDINGS: A supervised driving time experience accumulated, across the board, student driving skills and comfort levels improved. Early on, parents identified student difficulties with braking, turning, hugging the right side of the road and driving too slowly.
~ How parents and teen drivers communicated during the learning process and what role existing parent-child relationship dynamics played in that process. Also explored was the impact of parent-teen anxiety.
FINDINGS: For a handful of families, parents indicated that a teen refused to drive with a parent who was “too nervous or critical”. Many parents mentioned it was important to remain calm and mask anxiety. Overwhelmingly, the amount of feedback offered by a parent during instruction was gauged by the parent’s awareness of their teen’s sensitivity to criticism. Parental instruction primarily focused on handling of vehicle and in only 5 percent of cases did a parent instruct their teen to anticipate behavior of fellow drivers, practice more visual scanning of road conditions, or discuss hazard perception.
Moreover, the study found that teens need more practice in adverse driving conditions, including night driving, and driving in bad weather or heavy traffic. More than half of all parents had reservations about their teen’s skills in one or more of these areas, yet one-third of parents permitted their teenager to obtain their driver’s license within 30 days of becoming eligible.
“One of the best things parents can do to reduce the risk is to spend as much time as possible with their children to provide guidance driving in a variety of situations so they can gain experience and competence,” Peter Kissinger said. “If they do, it will have a significant impact on the teenager’s later driving experience.”
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