Teenagers:  Learning to Drive

Teen Safe Driving

                                      John Invernizzi, Ph.D.
Teen Drivers:  Motor Vehicle Crashes are the Leading Cause of Death
(more than one in three deaths in this age group)

     Driver education is one class most students enjoy.  The look in their eyes when walking in to my driver ed classroom is unforgettable. They are motivated.  They want to drive the family car.  Maybe their parents insisted they take driver ed to get more experience and to get an insurance discount. They have waited for this opportunity and symbol of independence for many years.

     Some are better than others in answering questions in class, while others excel during the on-the-road part of training.  Some do well in both, and some...probably need a lot of practice.  They all bring different skill levels to class.  They should all leave better drivers than when they arrived at my door.
*In 2008, 25% of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of 0.08 g/dl or higher.

*In a national survey conducted in 2007, nearly three out of ten teens reported that, within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. One in ten reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period.

*In 2008, nearly three out of every four teen drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.

*In 2008, half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight and 56% occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

                  Source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Brain immaturity might explain why the teen crash rate is so high.

     Some experts infer that parents who assume that simply warning their teens to fasten their safety belt, watch their speed, not to pick-up friends, and not to drink alcohol cannot control an important factor--the teen brain may not be capable of the responsibilities of driving a motor vehicle.   
     Researchers with the National Institute of Mental Health* have shown that "a crucial part of the teen's brain - the area that peers ahead and considers consequences - remains undeveloped. That means careless attitudes and rash emotions often drive teen decisions."
Jay Giedd, chief of brain imaging in the child psychiatric unit at the
National Institute of Mental Health

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     According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3,000 teens in the United States in 2009, aged 15-19 were killed and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.

     The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16 to 19 year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.
  So why are so many teens dying in vehicle crashes?  Most teens have excellent reflexes. Does this mean that all teens are careless "bad" drivers?  No, but some speculate that teenagers tend to take more risks while driving partly due to their overconfidence in their driving abilities.  Others suspect it has something to do with brain immaturity. (see the article "Brain immaturity..." in the sidebar of this webpage) >>>
More Statistics:

*Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2005, 10% of high school students reported they rarely or never wear seat belts when riding with someone else.
*Male high school students (12.5%) were more likely than female students (7.8%) to rarely or never wear seat belts.

*At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash is greater for teens than for older drivers.
Drive Safely!
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