AAA warns about ‘perfect storm’ of teen drivers hitting the road following pandemic – ABC15 Arizona

It has been called the ‘perfect storm’ this summer. But experts are not looking to the skies. They are referring to the roads.

Safety experts are expressing their concern about teens getting behind the wheel in the ‘100 deadliest days’. AAA says it is from Memorial Day to Labor Day that new drivers are most at risk. This is all happening as drivers are getting back on the road while the pandemic winds down.

“I practice, you know, real-life driving… looking at signals, lanes changes, being aware of how to brake,” 17-year-old Alex Nistor explained.

Nistor spoke with Operation Safe Roads while behind the wheel, at least, virtually. He was practicing defensive driving, without the dangerous consequences inside DrivingMBA in Scottsdale at his mother’s direction.

“She thought it was a good idea to be safe while driving, especially now because everyone seems to be in a hurry,” Nistor said. “There’s a lot more traffic.”

“They’re learning how to apply the rules of the road, they’re learning hand and foot controls, steering controls, getting on and off… of roadways,” Maria Wojtczak explained. “Everything you do out there, they’re doing in a safe, controlled environment. They can make a mistake. We can replay and say, ‘Okay, what could you have done differently?'”

Wojtczak is the owner of DrivingMBA and has been steering teens and adults toward better driving for nearly two decades with teachers who are trained to be calmer than a passenger parent.

“A parent… obviously moms are going to make those gasp noises,” Wojtcsak said. “We talk to them about making sure things are… calm and peaceful. It’s hard when it’s your kid, you know? You’re scared for their life, your life… we got it.”

But Wojtczak said parents need to be engaged in the driving process in a positive way.

AAA Arizona agrees.

“So, AAA recommends that parents start to model that proper driving behavior pattern behind the wheel, so you know… putting down that phone when you’re driving, staying focused on the road, driving the speed limit,” Aldo Vazquez with AAA Arizona said. “When you’re doing all that and your teen is watching you do that, that translates… that behavior translates over to them and then they start to pick up on those driving habits, as well.”

Vazquez went over the numbers AAA had gathered from 2010-2019. Their data specific to Arizona shows nearly 140 teens were killed in Arizona during that time from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Close to 400 teens were killed throughout the rest of the year. That means, roughly 35% of teen driving deaths happen within a 100-day period.

To look at driving courses for teens and adults, click here.

To look at tips for starting a conversation with your teen from AAA, click here.

Is there a roadway issue you’d like Operation Safe Roads to investigate? Call the OSR hotline at 833-AZ-ROADS or email roads@abc15.com.

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