Every year, one of the biggest causes of teen deaths in the United States is auto accidents. A feeling of invincibility is common during the teenage years, and it’s this feel that has been known to show up in this particular group’s quality of driving. Unfortunately, the mindset of a teenager combined with the lack of driving experience can lead to a higher rate of car accidents.
Driving is something many take for granted, especially a carefree teenager. In 2013 alone, there were over +2,000 teen deaths, aged 16-19, in the United States. Additionally, well over 200,000 additional teens were treated for injuries suffered in a crash. There are many causes of teen, car accidents. Here, I will go over some of the most prevalent ones.
Teen drivers are the least experienced group of drivers on the road, often fresh out of driving school. They often have their licenses for 3 years or less, which often means they haven’t had enough time to develop the mature reflexes and instincts required to drive safely. This inexperience can manifest itself into an accident in several ways, though through no inherent fault of the driver.
Examples of accidents caused by inexperience include not seeing another vehicle pull into the road, most likely because the driver isn’t properly scanning their surroundings. Or, forgetting to utilize the turn signal and in turn being rear ended. These are skills drivers master over the years, but new drivers can expect to be more prone to making these simple mistakes.
Reckless driving and misunderstanding road conditions
Another type of inexperience is not recognizing the dangers of certain road conditions. Speeding is a common problem among teenage drivers. If these two are paired together, plenty of accidents can occur. Scenarios could include coming around a turn too fast, or not recognizing the need to leave more space to stop in wet or icy conditions. Some accidents might lead to simple fender benders, but others, like taking a highway exit too fast, can cause serious harm.
Driving with other teens
Many states have strict rules around the teen driver-teen passenger scenario. This is done for a reason: Having people in one’s car can be distracting, and is a proven common cause of accidents. Teenagers may be more likely to distract the driver and having multiple teens in the car may be a distraction that’s difficult to ignore. Studies show having teenagers in the car increases the risk of other driving problems as well.
Another trend amongst teens is using their driving time to multi-task (e.g. looking at the phone or texting). Younger generations, from an early age, have been introduced to cell phones; social media and interactivity has become second nature. Unfortunately, when the decision is made to text or look at their phone while driving distraction and chances of an accident increases. This is a problem that hits any generation, but when you combine the distraction with lack of driving experience it can be a real issue.
Driving is one of the more dangerous activities a person will undertake in life, and teens should be taught and tested to recognize their risk exposure in the early stages. There are some great tools out there to help teens along the way. Pairing these tools with a few additional driving lessons, focused specifically on safety is a great way to ensure teens avoid an accident.
In his near 20-year career, Alex Lauderdale has served in multiple Transportation Administration, Analytic, and Management positions spanning multiple companies, including two in the Fortune 500. As a founder of EducatedDriver.org, he uses his experience and continued research to educate and broadcast information related to the current status and future of driving, driving technologies, technology TCD (total cost to driver), driver safety, and gaps in between.