It’s easy to buy into over-generalized stereotypes about teenage drivers. Movies and TV shows often portray young drivers as reckless, speed demons who endanger themselves and other motorists with their careless driving.
Yet, a new study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Companies found that reckless and drunken teenage drivers are actually less likely to cause a car accident than teens who are simply inexperienced or distracted behind the wheel.
Researchers looked at approximately 800 serious crashes, and found that several common driving errors were at the root of nearly half of the accidents. These driver errors included not matching their speed to the road conditions, allowing themselves to become distracted by something inside or outside of the car, and failing to thoroughly take stock of their surrounding environment.
Overall, 66 percent of the 800 crashes involving teenage drivers were caused by a simple error behind the wheel, as opposed to overtly reckless driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 600,000 US teens were injured during a car accident over the course of 2008. Furthermore, 4,000 teens died due to a road crash, making car accidents the main killer of 13-19-year-olds.
Many parents of teen drivers already emphasize how important it is for their children to avoid alcohol behind the wheel and drive cautiously. Yet, this study suggests that parents should also focus on teaching their teenagers other fundamental driving skills, such as how to control their speed in poor weather conditions and how best to scan the road ahead for potential dangers.
This added emphasis on safe driving habits could help lower the number of teenage deaths caused by fatal accidents.
Source: USA Today, “Driver Errors Explain Most Teen Crashes, Experts Say.” Kathleen Doheny, 12 April 2011