Teen’s Biggest Dangers
Newly licensed teens crash much more often than older, more experienced drivers. These are the circumstances that are the most common trouble areas for young drivers:
Research is clear on the fact that risky teen driving behaviors increase in the presence of teen passengers. A teen who is driving with other teens in the car is more likely to crash. And the more kids there are in the car, the stronger the likelihood of a crash. This is the primary reason many states have passed laws that restrict the ability of teens to drive with their peers.
Drugs and alcohol
Teens are at far greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash than the overall population. This is despite the fact they cannot legally purchase or publicly possess alcohol in any state. When alcohol is added to the inexperience of teen drivers, the results can be deadly. In 2017, nearly 24 percent of teenagers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. Marijuana is the drug that’s most commonly found in the blood of drivers who have been in a car crash. It is important to enforce a zero-tolerance policy at home. If your teen uses any alcohol or drugs, they cannot drive, nor should they ride with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs — in any amount.
As more and more states legalize marijuana, it’s important to remember that it’s illegal for everyone under 21. And just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. Laws for operating under the influence of alcohol also apply to drugs. Almost any drug can affect your driving skills, including illegal drugs, prescription medicine, and even over-the-counter medicine. Smoking or ingesting marijuana makes it more difficult to respond to sights and sounds. This makes you dangerous as a driver; it lowers your ability to handle a quick series of tasks. The most serious problems occur when facing an unexpected event, such as a car coming out from a side street or a child running out between parked cars. These challenges get worse after dark, because marijuana can also limit night vision.
As teens get older their bedtimes get later, but waking times do not tend to change. From ages 13 to 19, nightly sleep is reduced by 40–50 minutes. Teen drivers who sleep less than 8 hours a night are 33 percent more likely to crash than teens who get more than 8 hours of sleep. This lack of sleep can result in depressive moods, more risk-taking behaviors, and lower grades. It further reduces a person’s ability to process information, be attentive, and have good reflexes, which are all crucial to safe driving. Studies have shown that being awake for 18 hours has a similar impact to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08.
Just as it takes years to perfect any skill — athletic, artistic, or otherwise — it also takes years to be a truly good driver. Until teens are much more experienced, they run a greater risk of crashing, being hurt, and potentially dying. A driver’s license makes them a driver. Experience makes them good drivers.
For teens, the most severe crashes occur at night and on weekends. Night driving is challenging for all drivers, but novice drivers do not have the experience to anticipate and react when visibility is reduced. When teens drive at night, it is more often with a lack of adult supervision, with other teen passengers, and at higher speeds — all of which are factors that increase risk.