Study Blames Rookie Mistakes, Not Bravado, for Most Teen Crashes

New teenage drivers can be frighteningly dangerous on the road. But their accidents often are the product of rookie mistakes, rather than irresponsible aggressive driving.

As The New York Times reports, a new study of more than 800 crashes involving teens around the U.S. shows that 62 percent were caused not by drag racing or other such youth exploits, but rather by misjudging driving conditions and neglecting to scan the road, along with getting distracted, often by a passenger in the car.

The analysis, published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, suggests that addressing inexperienced driver issues would go a long way toward making teens less of a menace behind the wheel. The study was conducted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance.

“The question is, what should we be doing with teens during that learning phase that can produce a better driver?” said Dr. Dennis Durbin, one of the study’s authors and the co-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We want to create programs that can help parents more intentionally teach these kinds of skills.”

Many states have implemented more restrictive procedures for teen licenses in recent years, from raising the age for learners permits to prohibiting minors from driving after 10 p.m. While such restrictions are credited for a 30 percent drop in teen driving fatalities, Durbin and other experts say addressing the three main causes could make things safer still.

One of the ways to do so is through “narrative driving,” in which adults drive while giving a teenage passenger a running commentary. For example, the Times advises, adult drivers can point out examples of unsafe driving, indicate when they are checking the mirrors and explain how they deal with distractions without taking their eyes off the road.

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