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Teen Driving


The relationship between age and driving behavior has interested highway safety researchers and administrators for many years. It is generally acknowledged that the greatest risk of traffic crashes is among teenage drivers. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers across the United States. For both men and women, drivers aged 16 to 19 years of age have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates of any other age group. Click on the following links to get various nationwide crash statistics for teenage drivers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Teenage Driver Crash Risk Factors

The traffic accident rates for 16- to 19-year old drivers are higher than those for any other age group. What causes teenage drivers to be such risky drivers? The following is a list of their primary risk factors.

Poor hazard detection

The ability to detect hazards in the driving environment depends upon perceptual and information-gathering skills and involves properly identifying stimuli as potential threats. It takes time for young novice drivers to acquire this ability.

Low risk perception

Risk perception involves subjectively assessing the degree of threat posed by a hazard and one's ability to deal with the threat. Young novice drivers tend to underestimate the crash risk in hazardous situations and overestimate their ability to avoid the threats they identify.

Risk Taking

Teenagers tend to take more risks while driving partly due to their overconfidence in their driving abilities. Young novice drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding, tailgating, running red lights, violating traffic signs and signals, making illegal turns, passing dangerously, and failure to yield to pedestrians.

Not wearing seat belts

Teenagers tend to wear safety belts less often than older drivers. Why?

Lack of skill

Novice teenage drivers have not yet completely mastered basic vehicle handling skills and safe-driving knowledge they need to drive safely.

Alcohol and drugs

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a common cause of serious crashes, especially fatal ones, involving teenage drivers. Teenagers who drink and drive are at much greater risk of serious crashes than are older drivers with equal concentrations of alcohol in their blood.

Carrying passengers

For teenagers, the risk of being in a crash increases when they transport passengers-the fatality risk of drivers aged 16-17 years is 3.6 times higher when they are driving with passengers than when they are driving alone, and the relative risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers increases. Passengers who are age peers may distract the teen drivers and encourage them to take more risks, especially for young males riding with young male drivers.

Night driving

The per mile crash rate for teenage drivers is 3 times higher after 9:00 pm during the day. This is because the task of driving at night is more difficult; they have less experience driving at night than during the day; they are more sleep deprived, and/or because teenage recreational driving, which often involves alcohol, is more likely to occur at night.

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