It’s long been known that adolescent drivers are more likely than adult drivers to have car accidents. And most of us think we know why they do… inexperience.
Well – researchers have recently looked at data to try and gain a better understanding of why teenager drivers crash and here is what they’ve found:
- Peer relationships shape teenage behavior. Adolescents sometimes act irresponsibly when they are in groups – a result of peer pressure. These pressures can impact driving behavior in dangerous ways.
- Teenagers tend to exhibit optimistic bias – thinking bad things won’t happen to them – resulting in poor decision making and dangerous behavior.
- Hormonal shifts in males and cultural beliefs about maleness and driving fast lead to dangerous driving behavior.
- Teenage drivers tend to be emotional and the mood swings of adolescence seem to adversely affect driving behavior.
- Good parenting matters. A study of 2,000 young drivers in Michigan found that the level of parental monitoring and permissiveness was strongly associated with driving behavior. Permissiveness in general and early adolescent drug/alcohol use (before the age of 15) linked to parental permissiveness of this behavior was associated with a higher risk for car accidents.
- There appears to be a subset of the population that is known as sensation seekers, individuals who enjoy risky behavior. Teenagers in this group appear much more likely to drive at dangerous speeds and experiment with drugs and alcohol and drive while impaired.
- Yes – experience matters. Researchers have found that new drivers experience about 5.9 car crashes for every 100 licensed drivers during the first six months of driving; a rate that subsequently falls to 3.4 car crashes per 100 drivers for the next six months, and then to between 1.3 and 3.0 crashes per 100 drivers for the months following. Another study looked at environmental factors like narrow roads, curves and steeply graded roads and their impact on accident rates. In this study, 16 year old drivers showed a greater likelihood of crashing than older drivers.
- Speed (and poor judgment) kills. In one recent study – teenage drivers – both boys and girls, reported driving at speeds of 80 miles per hour or more in the last year.
- Distractions are a menace – and getting worse. We have written extensively about the influence of cellular technology on driver safety. This factor is a significant problem for both adult and teen drivers – but a particularly dangerous one for inexperienced drivers.
So, what is a parent to do?