It is not difficult to recognize a teenage driver operating a vehicle, due to their inexperience behind the wheel under varying driving scenarios. Each year, thousands of teenagers die in vehicle accidents in the United States caused by careless decisions. In addition to the teen’s inexperience in handling vehicle emergencies, showing off to friends and distracted driving also cause thousands of injuries and death every year.
Teenage drivers pose a significant danger to themselves when behind the wheel, along with their passengers and others on the road. According to statistics maintained by the Insurance Institute for Highly Safety (IIHS), teenage drivers have the highest risk of being involved in an accident, at nearly 400 percent over other age groups.
A Higher Risk
Before modern-day electronic technology, risky behavior by teenagers behind the wheel often involved recklessly changing lanes, ignoring school zone signs or disregarding traffic signals. In addition to those, today’s new distractions have minimized caution and rationality behind the wheel, increasing the chances of young teens making risky decisions.
Driver inexperience in the early years can cause the teenager to inaccurately determine the necessary response time to any situation based on the vehicle’s speed. Teens will often drive at excessive speeds on empty residential streets because they are yet to encounter close calls such as someone pulling out of driveway. Statistics maintained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show how teenagers on average drive 1.3 miles per hour faster than all other age groups.
Unfortunately, no amount of ongoing training and education can overcome a young motorist becoming wrapped up in distraction when driving. Talking or texting on cell phones, eating or drinking, or adjusting the radio all pose significant serious distractions to both experienced and inexperienced drivers.
Studies by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) indicate that one out of four vehicle crashes are caused by electronic usage and texting distractions. This translates to thousands of car accident-related deaths caused by distracted drivers. Surveys of teenagers found that nearly 9 out of every 10 young drivers have driven distracted.
Overcrowding the Vehicle
In peer settings, teenagers often drive their vehicle overcrowded with friends. The additional passengers often exacerbate the excitement in the vehicle, causing the teenager to drive far more aggressively than normal. Studies indicate that many teenagers are pulled over in an overcrowded vehicle after driving excessively, at speeds more than 15 miles per hour than the posted limit. Distractions of driving with too many passengers can have fatal consequences, because the vehicle is harder to control, and the driver tends to make poor driving decisions.
A study performed in 2008 by the University of Michigan shows that more than four out of 10 high school seniors admit to drinking alcohol within the previous month. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) shows that the high majority of teenagers between 15 and 20 years old that died in an accident after drinking and driving did not practice safe driving or develop good passenger habits including wearing a seat belt.
In addition, drug use among teenagers remains a serious problem, especially when driving. This is because marijuana, even in a low dose, can diminish reaction time when behind the wheel, making it easier to have a rear end collision or driving event requiring an instant response.
A Poorly Maintained Vehicle
In many incidences, teenagers drive vehicles that are missing important safety features known to provide protection to the driver and passengers. Often times due to a tight budget, the older vehicle is poorly maintained with malfunctioning brakes and/or low tire pressure. When vehicle performance is diminished, the teen’s inexperience often makes it difficult to handle the car properly when an emergency arises.
Parents with a teenager first beginning to drive often have well-founded concerns over the safety of their child on the roadway. This is because teenage drivers maintain the highest death rates in vehicle accidents when compared to any other age group. Teens often neglect obvious safety factors when driving including:
- Not wearing a safety belt
- The dangers of drinking and driving
- Over correcting or panicking in an emergency
- Traveling too fast to maintain the vehicle under specific conditions including weather or road hazards
- Riding with other teens
The surest way to protect the teenager from themselves when driving is to monitor their activities and driving behavior. Parents need to review the teens driving performance and discuss restrictions when operating the vehicle. This might include disallowing any passengers in the vehicle, turning off the cell phone and properly maintaining the car.