The number one reason for teen crashes is driver inexperience – not drinking and driving, speeding, or filling a car with friends . . . although those choices can also be deadly. While parents can set rules and enforce laws that prohibit risky behavior, parents must also realize that they are the ones who must give their teenager the time to practice driving skills and become a mature, safe and courteous driver.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
“All young drivers start out with very little knowledge or understanding of the complexities of driving a motor vehicle. Technical ability, good judgment and experience all are needed to properly make the many continuous decisions, small and large, that add up to safe driving. By making it so easy to get a driver license . . . without requiring an extended period of supervised practice-driving time, we are setting them up for the risk of making a fatal mistake.”
A recent study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm noted the following:
“Laws and policies that address distractions by limiting the number of peer passengers and prohibiting cell phone use among novice drivers will help reduce crash rates, but will only address part of the problem. Many crashes will still occur due to the inability of teen drivers to detect and respond to a hazard in time.”
The study noted that parents should focus on helping their teens learn to scan the roadway for hazards during driving practice sessions. Parental reinforcement of basic driving skills and good decision making will lead to safe driving habits that will last a lifetime.
Each year, more than 50 high school students are killed and thousands more are injured on Virginia’s roadways. Hospitalization and rehabilitation costs, lost time from school, and other costs associated with long-term injuries create substantial emotional, physical and financial problems for students, their families and communities.
Parents and families – not the school – are in the best position to encourage responsible behavior and have a sustained effect on minimizing risks faced by inexperienced drivers.
Adolescent Brain Development
Scientists now know that the decision-making portion of the teenager’s brain is not mature and the impulse control portion of the brain does not physically mature until about age 25.
As a result, teenagers often fail to realize that fast driving, texting while driving, drinking, drag racing and having too many passengers are dangerous activities. Teenagers need active parental supervision, especially where driving is concerned!
In addition, teens often don’t recognize themselves as inexperience drivers. A study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that 60% of teens believe inexperience heavily influences safety, but only 15% consider their peers to be inexperienced. “This contradiction is quite dangerous, considering this sample of teens is almost exclusively comprised of inexperienced, novice drivers,” the study stated. Further, many teens believe that getting a license automatically makes them experienced.