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AAA survey: Teen driving getting worse, parents might be to blame

AAA survey: Teen driving getting worse, parents might be to blame

MADISON, Wis. - A new survey from AAA found parents aren't preparing their teens to drive as well as they have in the past.

AAA interviewed 142 driving instructors across the country, and 65 percent said "the decline in quality parental involvement has added to the challenges facing young drivers." The survey also reported teens learn bad driving habits from their parents.

"Most parents know that your kids are more likely to do what you do than do what you say," Nick Jarmusz, AAA director of public affairs, said. "So as many times as you tell them no cellphones behind the wheel, no checking your email or texting behind the wheel, if they see you doing it, they are going to process that and learn that that is an acceptable thing, regardless of what you say about it."

The survey found the top three mistakes teens make when learning how to drive are speeding, being distracted by a phone or other people in the car and not properly scanning the road for risks or hazards.

As a driving instructor, Timothy Van Brocklin said he's taught thousands of students over the years. He said the only way students will learn to be good drivers is from a lot of practice.

"They just need more driving time throughout the whole year," he said. "They need to get out just as often as they can. The more driving they do, the better they become."

Jarmusz said AAA recommends students practice 50 hours with parents, instead of the state-required 30 hours.

"Take them out in all weather conditions, on all types of roadways, in all times of traffic patterns, at all times of the day. So that way, the first time that your teen experiences some sort of circumstance or some sort of an issue while they're driving, you'll be there with them to coach them through how to do that," he said. "If you're just doing  the bare minimum number of hours and doing the same route and the same time of day, avoiding inclement weather conditions, they're going to be on their own the first time they experience those types of things."

Van Brocklin said students learn better when they're not stressed.

"I would suggest using hand signals instead of yelling at the student," he said. "Keep it calm inside. To slow down, I just pump my arm up and down."

Most importantly, AAA says good driving comes from good teachers.

"We encourage parents from very early on to set as good example as possible," Jarmusz said. "Be the kind of driver they want their kids to be, and start that from early on. As soon as they turn that car seat around to be forward-facing, those kids are observing, watching and learning how to drive from you."

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