The Problem of Unsafe Driving Among Teens
As you can see from the data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the key contributing factor to fatal collisions with young drivers is speed. Over 35% of the accidents are caused by teenage drivers exceeding the posted speed limit.
|Cause of Accident||Percentage of Fatal Crashes|
|Alcohol and Drugs||
|Passing and Lane Changes||
|Wrong Side of the Road||
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (USA) 2012
The statistics are a great concern as they address a clear lack of judgment of the risk factors that multiply when driving at reckless speeds, but it also reflects an unfortunate overconfidence in the young driver’s abilities to manage the vehicle at a high speed. Their confidence that they will be able to react promptly as a driver causes a high mortality rate in motor vehicle accidents involving teens. And the data reflects that the speed of travel greatly exceeds the posted safe speed, which means that they aren’t just speeding “a little” they are making a dangerous choice that puts them (and other drivers and passengers) at great risk.
What is even more alarming is the fact that statistically, young drivers do not appear to learn from their mistakes. After a non-fatal collision dangerous young drivers are very likely to repeat the same risky behaviors that lead to the cause of their first accident. These dangerous drivers rather than being deterred by participating in a collision have a probability of a reoccurring serious accident according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
- Drivers with one prior crash have a subsequent crash rate of 1.5 times greater than drivers with no prior incidents.
- Drivers with three (3) prior crashes have a subsequent crash rate of 3.3 times greater than drivers with no prior incidents.
- Drivers with 6 or more prior neg-op points have a crash rate which is 2.5 times higher than young drivers with no prior accidents.
The data is alarming for both parents and lawmakers who struggle to educate young drivers on the very real risks of fatality or serious, lifetime injury such as cognitive or physical disability post-accident. Overcoming the obstacles to educating our young drivers is critical, and understanding what motivates them to make life threatening choices when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Factors Which Contribute to Unsafe Driving
Why do young drivers make bad choices that put their safety (and the safety of others) at risk? There are a number of common factors that contribute to motor vehicle accidents causing injury or even death for young drivers, who have a traffic accident rate that is higher than any other age group (drivers aged 16 to 19 years). These are some of the common factors.
- Poor hazard detection (the ability to gather information quickly and identify potential risks around them to avoid accidents). This perception comes with experience that young drivers have not acquired on the road.
- Hesitance to wear seatbelts contributes to serious injury during motor vehicle accidents for teens.
- Alcohol and drugs are a factor that impairs reaction time and judgment, increasing both the risk of an accident and the severity of injuries for the driver and passengers.
- Transporting passengers puts a young driver 3.6 times more likely to get into an accident due to distracted driving.
- The crash rate is three times higher for young drivers on the road after 9:00 p.m. Visual acuity for night driving may be poor, but alcohol and drugs are also a factor in late night accidents.
- Risk perception is low. Teens do not feel that they will get into an accident and they do not contemplate the probability of a serious life threatening injury, disability or even death.
For young drivers it can be a combination of many of these factors that puts them in the direct path of a motor vehicle accident. So what is being done and what can we do to educate them better and protect teens and other drivers from bad decisions that cost lives?
Why are teenage drivers so reluctant to evaluate the real danger when it comes to driving? Lawmakers have realized that in many cases where speed or distracted driving is a factor, there are other passengers in the vehicle which can contribute to poor decision making and dangerous distractions for the young and inexperienced driver.
Each of the fifty (50) States in the US have instituted a three-stage GDL system, although the terms and restrictions of the Graduated Drivers License vary by state as there is no Federal provision. One of the common restrictions for teen drivers is to restrict passengers by age; it reduces fatalities to limit the number of young passengers permitted in the car without adult supervision. More than 50% of the States limit young drivers to one (1) passenger under the age of 21 years.
For more information and a map of State laws pertaining to Graduated Drivers Licensing visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute website.
What Can Parents Do About It?
No one wants to discuss mortality, particularly with your children. But that hesitancy to discuss the consequences of certain actions and bad judgment puts young drivers at exceptional risk. They need to understand that there is more at risk in a car accident than a speeding ticket or raised insurance premiums. That they, and their friends and other drivers are all put into a dangerous situation any time bad choices are made behind the wheel.
- Insist on a formal driver’s education program for your teen. You can assist their progress and training by helping them and instructing them, but the best education comes from trained professionals who are skilled in communicating with young drivers. Choose a qualified and reputable education class for your teen.
- Sit down and show them the consequences of reckless driving. It may seem a little harsh or awkward but YouTube is a great source for videos on driver safety awareness. Let your teen see peers who have experience significant loss (injury or disability) as a result of bad choices.
- Limit access to vehicles until you are comfortable with the level of practical driving skills your teen has. In other words, a license does not mean automatic and unsupervised access to Mom or Dad’s car. It is earned when responsible driving skills are demonstrated over time.
Create an honest, non-lecturing and frank dialogue with your teenager about the risks for them, their friends and other drivers on the road with them.
Frank Pipolo is President of FP Internet Marketing a certified Internet marketing consultant, professional marketing advisor to law firms, legal marketers, administrators and lawyers, and writer for Vanguard Attorneys, a Tampa Florida law firm that specializes in florida auto accident attorney. He has more than 20 years’ experience partnering with clients to build their business through development and implementation of track-proven Internet marketing strategies.. Follow him on Google+