Winter Break Poses Danger to Teen Drivers


Phoenix, Dec. 21, 2012. Today marks the beginning of winter break for many Arizona high schools. Amidst holiday festivities, teens will likely spend more time driving, and therefore may have more time to engage in risky activities. That’s why AAA Insurance is encouraging families to incorporate a lesson on safety in their holiday plans.


“The excitement that winter break and the holidays bring can easily overwhelm a teen’s decision-making,” said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance for AAA Arizona. “When teens spend more time behind the wheel, they need increased guidance. It’s up to parents to ensure teens understand the risks they face and how to avoid them.”


Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, accounting for more deaths each year than drugs, alcohol, suicide and violence combined. This is attributed to a combination of teens’ inexperience behind the wheel and their greater likelihood to engage in risky behaviors, according to AAA Insurance.

As winter break begins, AAA Insurance encourages parents and teens to visit AAA’s online resource Keys2Drive to learn more about teens’ driving risks, and to discuss those issues, which include:

  • Drugs and alcohol. Even if you’ve already explained the dangers of driving under the influence, emphasize that these dangers can be more widespread during the holidays. Make an agreement with your teen that they will not drive or ride with anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Distractions. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to get into a crash or narrowly avoid one, according to a Virginia Tech study. Driving with passengers also heightens a teen’s crash risk – in fact, three passengers quadruples that threat. To reduce your teen’s risk of distractions, encourage them to stow their cell phones, limit passengers, and eliminate any other distractions in their cars.
  • Buckling up. Make buckling up a habit every time you and your teen get into the car – even if only driving a short distance.
  • Other drivers. If your teen is riding with someone else, make sure you know with whom he will be riding. If the teen’s plans change, make sure he lets you know so you know who he’s are with at all times. And if your teen ever feels unsafe, encourage him to call you before riding in an unsafe situation or with someone he doesn’t trust.
  • Putting it in writing. Implement a “parent-teen” contract to ensure you and your teen are on the same page regarding driving risks and consequences, and to allow your teen to make a more concrete commitment to make smart decisions. You can download a sample contract on AAA’s Keys2Drive website.

During winter break, parents also can enhance their teens’ driving, and critical thinking skills with driver training resources. AAA offers programs like teenSMART, which can earn up to 24 percent off a teen’s AAA auto insurance; Teaching Your Teens To Drive, a guide for parents who choose to teach their teens to drive themselves; and Driver-ZED, software that helps teens practice recognizing road hazards.   

Parents with teens approaching driving age should consider signing up for Permit Prep 101. Offered in Phoenix and Tucson, this free, 90-minute workshop covers teen driving risks and statistics, Arizona’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing law, learning-to-drive tools and resources, and an overview of the Arizona Driver’s License Manual. For upcoming dates and to register, visit


AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.