The teenage years are difficult for most young people, when they’re not quite an adult but no longer a child. These are the years when humans grow up. While this is the time when youth gain new responsibilities, this is also the time when youth are given new privileges. And one of those privileges is the right to drive a motor vehicle. Even this privilege can be a mixed blessing, though. While teenagers are allowed to drive, their reputation precedes them: the image of the teen driver with the Student Driver placard on the roof, driving erratically down the street. This reputation isn’t simply based on stereotypes — it is reflected in accident statistics and economics. It is no secret that motor-vehicle insurance is more expensive for younger drivers.
An Earned ReputationThe reasons for some of these stereotypes are well-earned. Statistics show that teen drivers are, in fact, much more likely to crash than older drivers. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the main cause of accidental death among teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 is motor-vehicle crashes. In 2014 alone, there were 2,270 teen fatalities in automobile accidents, and more than 221,313 teenagers visited emergency rooms because of collisions.
CausesAs practice can never replace the real thing, perhaps the biggest contributor to teen accidents is inexperience. This shows itself statistically in the most common accident types teenagers are generally involved in, and also in the causes for those accidents. The website Teendriversource, funded and published by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, has investigated and reported many of their findings. The institute reports that more than 75 percent of accidents by teens are caused by what they consider to be critical errors: Lack of scanning, going too fast for road conditions, and being distracted.
- Lack of scanning: Despite being on most driving tests and second nature to individuals who have driven for several years, a lack of scanning is essentially a direct result of a lack of experience. Drivers who have been on the road for several years are aware that an essential part of driving is paying attention to other drivers: as they know, cars can come from anywhere, not just from the expected direction. For example, if pulling out of a store and turning right, common sense suggest that other cars will only approach from the left. However, if a driver only looks left, they may miss the car pulling out next to them; the pedestrian on the street, or the bicycle crossing the road.
- Going too fast for road conditions: Despite updated safety standards and new technology, automobiles have their limitations. And while most experienced drivers may cautiously test their vehicle’s limitations, teenagers tend to go full throttle. Unfortunately, that means often overshooting limitations, and not having the proper training to realize limitations caused by ice, rain, fog and other hazards.
- Distracted Driving: Distracted driving is essentially operating a motor vehicle while distracted by something other than the road. Most often with teenagers, this has a tendency to be smart phones or passengers. Distracted driving is dangerous for any age group, but is most prevalent and most common with teenagers.