Once a child reaches adolescence, parents experience a whole new set of fears and anxieties. Not only are their children becoming more autonomous, they are beginning to drive or at least ride around with their friends. For years, car accidents have been the leading cause of death among teenagers. While the vast majority of us make it to our twenties without a serious accident, most of us can remember a fender-bender or two from our early days of driving. Insurance companies know this phenomenon well and charge substantially more for teenage drivers than adults with clean records.
Why do teenagers make for more dangerous drivers? The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia conducted research on teens and accidents and found that not only were teenagers four times as likely to suffer fatal crashes, 75% of these accidents found the teen driver at fault. The research was also able to explain why young drivers are involved in so many tragic crashes. Below are the most common causes of teen car accidents.
Driving is serious job that too many of us take for granted. When you're operating thousands of pounds of steel at up to seventy miles an hour, there's not much room for error. And yet, even the most safety conscious of us fiddle with the stereo, take the occasional phone call or attempt to eat dinner on the road. Teenagers seem even more susceptible to distraction, and without the years of driving experience enjoyed by an older driver, small errors can become tragedies. The Children's Hospital found that about 20% of teen driving accidents could be attributed to distractions moments before collision.
Even when teenagers are paying attention to the road, they often don't exhibit the safest of driving behaviors. This might include failing to allow enough space between cars, running a yellow light or having a poor response to changing road conditions. Whether this increased risk is because of inexperience, cognitive underdevelopment compared to adults or a greater willingness to take risks is not clear, but reckless driving habits lead to roughly 21% of teen driving accidents.
Driving too fast for conditions also contributes to about 21% of teen driving accidents. When the road is wet, icy or covered in snow, many teens don't have the experience to safely adjust their driving, leading to single-vehicle accidents and putting other vehicles at risk.
The truth is, just because a teenager is old enough to get a license doesn't mean they're a safe driver. Driving safely is a skill that develops over time. Be sure to teach your teen driver not just the rules of the road, but also the everyday practices that will keep them safe.