Caution: New Teen Driver, Terrified Parent

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It's easy enough for the folks at AAA to say parents need to spend more time teaching teenagers how to drive.

Sure, let those people hurtle the wrong way down on a one-way street during 5 p.m. rush hour, sitting next to a panicky teenage driver who, let's face it, isn't exactly Albert Einstein even when he does know what the $#@! he's going.

It's scary!

Still, those scolding school marms at AAA say you better go to the store, buy yourself a spine and do your duty. As dangerous as jittery juveniles can be when you're teaching them to drive, imagine what they're like without you there to scream "Ohmigod!" and grab the wheel.

AAA points out that teenagers crash more cars than any group of drivers in the United States. In 2008, according to AAA, 1,368 new drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 died in car accidents.

Parents just don't spend enough time teaching teenagers how to drive, according to a study released by the AAA Foundation just this week.

How do researchers know this? They did a little snooping.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center attached dashboard cameras to the cars of some 50 North Carolina families. They also interviewed parents 10 times during the year between kids getting their learner's permits and their actual licenses.

Kids don't get enough experience driving on different kinds of roads with different amounts of traffic and in different situations, researchers concluded. According to AAA stats, about a quarter of fatal crashes involving teens happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.

"A disappointing result was that only 20 percent of the time parents and teenagers were in the car at night, rain and heavy traffic. Eighty percent were found in benign or routine circumstances -- to and from school, to and from church," Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation, tells ABC News. "Parents need to give additional experience."

Beyond that, parents spend only a pitiful amount of time teaching their kids to drive at all.

Kissinger tells ABC his organization would like to see parents spend at least 100 hours teaching kids to drive. (The majority of states only require 50 hours.)

Almost 70 percent of parents in the study said busy schedules got in their way. No excuse, Kissinger tells ABC, noting that inexperience behind the wheel is the leading cause of most crashes involving teens.

"The best way to learn is to practice with an engaged parent," he says. "Everyone goes through a learning process."

About half of the parents in the study said they didn't feel comfortable being on the road in rain or heavy traffic with an inexperienced teen driver. However, they apparently don't mind other people doing it. Even without experience in bad weather or traffic, about 40 percent of the families still let their kids get licenses when they hit 16.

Talk about scary.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.