Teens’ Biggest Dangers
Newly licensed teens crash much more often than older, more experienced drivers. Below 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.
The unfortunate reality is that teens buckle up far less frequently than adults. Recent studies show that belt use amongst teens is the lowest of any age group, just 76 percent compared to a national average of 85 percent. In fact, the majority (58 percent) of young people 16 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes are unbuckled.
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 that 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. Drunk male teenage drivers are 18 times more likely than a sober male teen driver to be killed in a single-vehicle crash. Drunk female teenage drivers are 54 times more likely to be killed than a sober counterpart.
As teens get older their bedtimes get later, but waking times do not tend to change. From age 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 results 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 concentration (BAC) level of 0.08.
A driver’s primary responsibility when behind the wheel is to focus on the act of driving. Any behavior that distracts from this activity increases the risk of a collision. In this age of electronic communication, the dangers of distractions have increased significantly. Use of electronic devices for any purpose – to send or receive communications, to surf the web, to view images, video, or anything at all – should absolutely be avoided.
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, getting hurt, and potentially dying. A driver’s license makes them a driver. Experience helps them become safer 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.