Friday, June 24, 2005

Teen Drivers: Are They Ready?

In the United States of America, the accident rate per mile for drivers in the 16-19 age group is four times higher than among older drivers. What is even more frightening is that the youngest drivers are the most dangerous. The accident rate per mile for 16-year-old drivers is three times higher than for 19-year-old drivers.

Let's look at more figures. More than 20% of all traffic deaths occurred when a teenager was driving the car, and more than 60% of teenage passenger deaths occurred when another teenager was driving the car.

So the question remains: Are teen drivers ready?

Simply put, the answer is no.

A driver's perception of his driving skills greatly affects how they behave on the road. Think about it. This rule applies all the time. Take skateboarding for example. Compare an amateur against a professional. Obviously the professional will participate in more stunts than the amateur, and the likelihood of an accident would be higher in the latter.

And this may not be their fault. A recent series of studies reported some very interesting findings. Teens may not be able to help it when they take risks. It’s how their brains are wired.

Scientists have found that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior does not fully form until the person is 25-years-old. That means that a 16-year-old driver is seriously not ready to perceive the risks of driving a car. And they really cannot help it. No amount of teaching, training and practicing can help them.

This is especially true when the teen is around his friends. When he drives alone, he most likely would not take any significant risks, but around friends, he ran more traffic lights.

Well, what then, can be done?

There are a few options:

1. Limit the number of passengers in a teen’s car.
It can be made a law to prevent the number of passengers in a teen’s car from going above a certain limit. As the study has shown, more friends in the car lead to more risk-taking, and thus more accidents. The inverse accordingly is true.

2. Ban cell-phone usage in a car.
A test was once conducted like this. There were two groups of people who had to press a button when a light flashed in front of them. The only difference is that in the first group, there were no distractions while in the second, they were allowed to chat with a friend on a cell-phone. Those using the cell phones were more likely to not notice the flash than those who had nothing to distract them.

3. Raise the driving age to 18.
Legislators have begun to consider raising the legal driving age to 18, and this will be a very good move. Many countries around the world have a much higher legal driving age than the United States, and the percentage of casualties in countries with a similar road safety standard as the United States are definitely lower.

All three options are definitely effective, though, they may face much opposition. Firstly, Teenagers want to drive a car. A car is a status of freedom and independence. Secondly, it would be difficult to enforce such rules like banning cell-phone usage or limiting the number of passengers in a teen’s car. However, the advantages of enforcing these three options undeniably outweigh the disadvantages.

About the Author:
Daniel Loh is a freelance author and internet enthusiast. He is also interested in benefiting the community, spurring him on to write articles on a variety of topics, including car and road safety.

Find out more about Auto Safety here.

Or, visit his website here.