Teen drivers are about 50 percent more likely to crash in the first month of driving on their own than after the first year behind the wheel, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
And they're almost twice as likely to crash in that first month than after two full years of unsupervised driving.
Heavy accident risk is why car insurance rates are higher for teen drivers than adults.
In analyzing new driver crash data in North Carolina, researchers found that three mistakes accounted for 57 percent of all crashes in which teens were at least partially responsible during the first month of licensed driving: failure to slow down, inattention and failure to yield.
The rate of some types of crashes dropped quickly with experience, such as accidents involving left turns. Some other types of crashes appear to result from a failure to master certain driving skills rather than from a lack of understanding, researchers concluded.
"We know that young drivers' crash rates decrease quickly as they gain experience. What our new study tells us is that there are a few specific abilities that we could do a better job of helping teens develop before they begin driving independently," said Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation president and CEO, in a press statement.
A related AAA Foundation study used in-vehicle cameras to monitor teens learning to drive with their parents, as well as teens' first six months of unsupervised licensed driving. That study found that teens spent most of their time with parents on familiar roads under easy driving conditions. Without parents in the car, cameras caught close calls due to simple mistakes and a few instances of distracted driving, such as horseplay with passengers and texting.
"This research serves as a great reminder for parents to stay involved in the learning process even after the law allows teens to drive without a parent in the car," Kissinger said. "Continued parent engagement can help teens gain needed driving experience and shape their habits for a lifetime of safe driving."