There are a lot of reasons why teen drivers can be considered unsafe.
New to driving, they don’t have the experience that many older drivers do. Often the young feel invulnerable, so they make take chances that older drivers won’t. Typically sociable, they travel in small groups, making it more likely that they will have noisy, distracting friends with them in the car. And because the part of the brain that makes it possible to evaluate risks doesn’t fully kick in until about 26, teenage drivers may think things like driving while texting or punching in a phone number seem like good ideas.
(In the interest of fairness, I should mention that too many adults do all of this stuff, too. I think maybe that for some people, the risk evaluating part of the brain never fully kicks in.)
So, as a group, teenagers are among the most dangerous drivers. But teenagers, as a group, are also as smart, resourceful, and self-interested as any other groups of people, which means they can be taught the habits and attitudes that will make them safer drivers.
And that’s the entire idea behind National Teen Driver Safety Week.
Begun in 2007 by the US Congress, the third week in October is set aside as a time to bring more attention to the dangers faced by and often caused by teenage drivers. Through school programs and special events, groups across the country take this week as an opportunity to educate new drivers about the real risks of the road and to better prepare them to handle those risks.
This year’s theme is Reducing Distractions. Distracted driving is the number 1 cause of collisions involving younger drivers, and auto collisions is the number 1 cause of death among adolescents. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Fatality Facts 2008: Teenagers, the fatality rate for drivers ages 16 to 19, based on miles driven, is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 69.
Whether it’s texting or cell phone calls or finding a song that isn’t lame or just friends talking constantly from the back seat, distractions are especially dangerous to teenage drivers. Driving is a complicated set of actions and awarenesses, requiring a great deal of concentration. And the less experience a driver has, the more concentration is needed. This makes distracted driving, dangerous to all drivers, even more dangerous to inexperienced teenage drivers.