Youth and Driving Don’t Always Mix Safely

Teen drivers are more likely than adults to crash their car, due to their youth and inexperience — but don’t try telling them that.

Studies have found that teens have an overblown sense of their driving prowess, one that can and does put them in the middle of some truly terrible crashes. They also don’t understand that distractions such as cell phones and teenage passengers can make driving more dangerous.

“Kids tend to judge their experience on getting a license,” said Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The truth is that getting a driver’s license is the very first step to gaining experience.”

It’s an established fact that young drivers crash more often than older drivers, and with worse consequences. People between 15 and 24 years old represent just 14 percent of the United States population, but they account for 30 percent of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent among females, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2005, 4,544 teens ages 16 to 19 died of injuries incurred in crashes, the CDC says. That same year, nearly 400,000 teenage passengers or drivers of vehicles involved in crashes sustained injuries severe enough to require treatment in an emergency department.

“A new driver at any age is going to have a higher crash rate, but with teenagers, you’re combining that experience deficit with immaturity and risk-taking,” said Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Ginsburg headed a study that asked high-school students their opinions of a number of risky driving situations. Sixty percent of the students said that driving experience was very important, but only 15 percent said they had ridden with inexperienced drivers.

Most of the kids in Ginsburg’s study didn’t understand that cell phones could be a distraction to a driver. They also didn’t realize that having other teenage passengers in the car posed a safety risk — a troubling statistic given that two of every three teen drivers surveyed said they often traveled with teen passengers.

“Passengers for older drivers can be neutral or even beneficial, but when teen drivers have teen passengers, they are more likely to crash,” McCartt said. “That’s likely due to distraction passengers bring to the vehicle, and an increased propensity to take risks.”

Another study, this one in Canada, found that high-school students tend to harbor mistaken beliefs that lead them to underestimate the risks of driving. The teens in that study believed that:

Their youth and agility make them better able than more experienced drivers to overcome poor driving conditions or intoxication.
Vehicle problems and highway design are more likely than human error to cause crashes.
If they were in a crash, doctors would be able to save their lives and bring them completely back to normal.
But the study did contain some bits of good news as well. Teenagers seemed to understand that drinking and driving were a bad mix, Ginsburg said.

“Substances are used by a relatively few kids, because they’ve heard that message, and they get what the risk is,” he said. “On the other hand, having passengers in the car and talking on cell phones happens more frequently, and they’re all distractions.”

Ginsburg said that parents need to take a role in disabusing their kids of wrong notions about driving.

“Parents matter,” he said. “Parents are the ones in charge of making sure kids follow restrictions and graduated driving laws. The challenge is for parents to make clear that these restrictions aren’t about control, they’re about safety, and they come from a place of love.”

McCartt’s group has recommended a tougher solution: Raise the driving age to 17 or 18. She points to New Jersey, which is the only state that issues licenses at 17 and which has a consistently lower rate of teen deaths in car crashes than its neighboring states.

“Teen drivers are not good at even identifying whether something’s risky or not,” McCartt said. “The evidence from New Jersey suggests other states would benefit substantially from increasing the age at which teens get their license.”

Source: HealthDay News ScoutNews, LLC.

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New, Stricter Connecticut State Driving Laws for Teens go into effect August 1

Come Aug. 1, Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles will have stricter guidelines for 16- and 17-year-olds seeking learner’s permits and driver’s licenses.

They will face curfews between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. They will have to wait six months, instead of three, to drive with anyone other than an instructor or parent; and one year instead of six months to drive passengers other than family.

“We have evidence that (new drivers) are more likely to crash with passengers,” said Robert Ward, commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles. “We want them to know the rules of the road. And they need time to gain experience with the least number of distractions possible.”

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Ward spoke Wednesday morning after a press conference at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford aimed at publicizing the changes in the law.

Local parents and teenagers have decidedly different views on the new rules. Parents interviewed supported Ward. Teenagers didn’t.

“I think it should depend on the individual,” said Lily Grant, 19, of New London. “Leave it up to parents. Why should a good kid be punished?”

Her sister, Summer, 16, got her learner’s permit Wednesday, and is grandfathered in under existing regulations. But she also has a situation the legislature may not have considered.

“I have a twin sister, and we go everywhere together,” she said. “Does that mean we couldn’t drive each other?”

Sherry Filiatreault of Sprague was less sympathetic.

“I have an 18-year-old who took driver’s ed but decided not to get her license,” she said. “I would worry about her friends driving her. I think this gives you more experience before you get behind the wheel with friends in the car. I remember when I got my license, there was not as much traffic as there is now.”

AT A GLANCE
New rules of the road for 16- and 17-year-olds who get their learner’s permits on or after Aug. 1:
— Applicants must pass a 25-question written test.
— New permit holders must have at least 40 hours of behind-the-wheel training before applying for a license and must complete an eight-hour driver safety course.
— Permit holders may not have passengers except for a licensed instructor or parent/guardian with a license.
— Curfew is in effect from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
— During the first six months with a license, the driver may not drive passengers other than a licensed instructor or parent/guardian with a license.
— During the second six months, the only additional passengers allowed are family members.
— Use of a cell phone, even with a hands-free device, is prohibited.
— More information is available at http://www.ct.gov/dmv

Source: By MICHAEL GANNON
Norwich Bulletin