The Three Reasons Young Drivers are at a Greater Risk For Car Accidents

Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers. A study done in 2010 revealed that seven teenagers 16 to 19 died every day from injuries sustained in car accidents. And 282,000 teenagers suffered injuries in car crashes. On a per mile basis, teenage drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely to be involved a fatal car accident than drivers aged 20 or older.  A combination of inexperience, impulsiveness and exposure during the  adolescent years contribute to this increased risk in being involved in a fatal car accident.

1.     Inexperience
Most new drivers, when they are first licensed, have insufficient experience in the real world to handle the complexity of driving. Although driver education courses are offered in some schools and also available privately, the fact is that these courses usually only provide a relatively small amount of time actually driving practice – certainly not enough for a new driver to become minimally competent, much less proficient. Drivers, like in any activity, become more proficient in their driving skills the longer they have been driving and in a variety of conditions and locations.

One study has shown a statistical decrease in crash rates among young drivers who had about 110 hours of supervised driving practice before obtaining a drivers license. No research project has  concluded / determined how much driving experience is “sufficient” for new drivers. There is empirical findings that new drivers continue to improve for at least two years.  Not surprisingly car crash rates for new drivers are very  high in the first few months of driving.  Car crash rates for new drivers then begin to sharply decline over after the first several months and then continue decline but at a lower rate. The bottom line, there is no substitute for experience.

2.    Impulsiveness
Teenage drivers, particularly 16 year olds tend to engage in more impulsive behaviors. This is often attributed to their level of cognitive, social, emotion and biological development. When a teenage is driving a car, their impulsiveness, can be dangerous. As well, the young drivers lack of experience add to his or her inability to regularly recognize the conditions that create risks for the driver. The presence of other teenage passengers in the car with a youthful driver frequently  adds to the innate inclination to act impulsively.

Not surprisingly research suggests that teenage / young drivers are distracted more easily than an experienced driver. The inexperienced driver is not equipped to effectively address the myriad of skills necessary to drive even without the interference of distractions. Such drivers find that  attention can be easily diverted because of inexperience. This is particularly problematic combining lack of experience with impulsiveness.

3.    Exposure
Teenage drivers tend to drive frequently at night and often with multiple teenage passengers. These factors pose significantly increase the likelihood of a car crash.

Studies have shown that driving after dark (well before midnight) sharply increases the risk of a serious or fatal car crash.  The after midnight the risk factor is even higher.  For 16 and 17 year old drivers,  more than 80% of nighttime car crashes occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight. Many states, because of this high risk factor, prohibit teenage drivers from driving at night for the first six months after obtaining a driver’s license.

Young teenage drivers because of activities associated with school and school related events tend to “car pool” and as a result tend to have more passengers, their own age, than older drivers. Studies have shown that the risk for car crashes are higher for inexperienced drivers, driving with passengers.  The risk of a serious or fatal crash substantially increases with the number of young passengers in the car.  Because of this, in many states prohibit young beginning drivers to have more than one young passenger. This restriction is usually for the first six months driving.

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