Adolescent Physiology and Effect on Driving

Motor vehicle crashes can happen to anyone—even the “good” teens crash. ALL new drivers lack experience and are therefore more likely to crash. The young brain’s vulnerabilities include feelings of invincibility and an attraction to thrill seeking and other intense feelings.  Adding fuel to this fire are souped-up hormones that effect excitability and mood.

  • So, how does the teenage brain handle a yellow light? It says, “Do I stop, or do I try to “beat it?” How teen drivers handle these types of driving decisions are a good indicator of their maturity level.
  • Thrill seeking–some teenage brains love thrill seeking. Do you remember thrill-seeking activities that you engaged in as a teen that you would not do now? That’s because better decisions come with brain development, experience, and maturity.
  • Teenaged passengers—with passengers in the car the teen brain must decide whether to pay attention to friends or focus on driving. All the research clearly indicates that passengers significantly increase teen driver crash risk.
  • Multitasking — teens are attracted to, and we all are being bombarded by information in this electronic age. Parents, you need to teach your teen driver how to manage these distractions.
  • Not wearing seatbelts — some teen brains are able to understand the safety benefits of seatbelts, while others do not value safety, and others are at the stage that they think wearing a seatbelt is not cool.

People crash cars, they do not crash themselves. Young people often are the weak link in automotive safety. Interestingly, statistics reveal that older teenagers with more driving experience have more crashes. The higher crash rate for older teens is attributed to their having more driving privileges, fewer restrictions, and less parental supervision. These data prompted the General Assembly to revise the juvenile passenger restrictions for older teens.

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