Many teenagers may believe they are invincible behind the wheel, but year after year, the statistics prove otherwise. And in a new AAA survey of driving instructors, it appears parents deserve some of the blame.

The top three mistakes teens make while learning to drive, according to the survey:

  • Speeding
  • Distractions
  • Poor visual scanning

And 65 percent of driving instructors claim parents are worse today, compared to a decade ago, at preparing their teens to drive. Responding to the results, AAA said parent involvement is key to preventing deadly mistakes behind the wheel.

Over the past five years, AAA said, teen drivers were involved in nearly 14,000 fatal crashes nationwide. So far this year in New Jersey, 29 fatal accident victims were a driver or passenger under the age of 21, according to the State Police.

Cathleen Lewis, director of public and government affairs for AAA Northeast, noted many bad behaviors that teens exhibit behind the wheel are learned behaviors.

"While we're not starting to teach our teens to drive until they're 16 or 17, we're teaching them habits long before then," Lewis said. "If parents are using their phone behind the wheel, or speeding, those are things that their teens are learning long before they hit the wheel."

In a recent survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 77 percent of drivers aged 35 to 55 reported talking on a cell phone while driving. Forty-five percent reported driving 15 mph over the speed limit on the highway.

To increase parent involvement during their teen's learning-to-drive years, AAA is supporting legislative proposals in Trenton that would increase the requirements before a teen earns their driver's license.

One proposal would establish a parent-teen orientation program, similar to the state's Share the Keys initiative, a pilot program that runs at local high schools and libraries.

The other would mandate practice driving hours between instructor hours and obtaining a license. New Jersey is one of four states that do not require practice hours before receiving a full license. AAA recommends parents spend at least 50 driving hours with their children.

"It gives teens the practice they need to really become comfortable behind the wheel," Lewis said.

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