Study: Newly Li­censed Teen Driv­ers Lack Crit­i­cal Driv­ing Skills

The Washington Post Sunday - - CARS -

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.

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