Study: Newly Licensed Teen Drivers Lack Critical Driving Skills
My oldest daughter is a mere month away from turning 15. Because she’ll be studying overseas this summer, we’re delaying her learner’s permit driving test, and I’m more than a bit relieved. Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for teens, according to researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A new CHOP study shows that newly licensed teen drivers, including those who have finished the learner’s permit phase and passed the intermediate or restricted driver’s license test, lack critical safe- driving skills.
CHOP researchers developed a simulated driving assessment that puts teens behind the virtual wheel of a car. They presented the teens with 22 scenarios of typical ways younger drivers end up in car crashes over the course of a 35-minute “drive.” Alarmingly, nearly 43 percent of these young drivers, who had their restricted licenses for less than three months, got into at least one simulated crash. As a comparison, 29 percent of adult drivers with plenty of experience got into at least one simulated crash.
The assessment showed that, not surprisingly, new teen drivers had the most difficulty with complex crash avoidance maneuvers such as braking in hazardous situations and anticipating and responding to hazards.
How does this help teen drivers when they’re on the roads? CHOP suggests that these types of assessments could be used to safely evaluate a teen’s road competence. According to Catherine McDonald, the study’s author and teen driver safety researcher, “If we can identify driving skill deficits in a safe, simulated environment, then we can tell families and driving instructors what to focus on during supervised practice drives or how to help those with citations or crashes who are already licensed.”
Additionally, it’s our job as parents to seek out every possible learning opportunity for our teen drivers to help them become as safe as possible on the road. Traditional driver’s education courses can only go so far, but there are many extracurricular learning opportunities across the country (some of them free like Driver’s Edge) that can help teach our teens how to avoid and deal with precarious driving situations. Take some time to research programs that may be traveling to your area and enroll your teen today.