Teenage Driving: Risk and BehaviorAug 31, 2018 04:44PM ● By Pamela Johnson
The National Institutes of Health have determined that teenage drivers are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash during the first three months after getting their driver’s license as compared with the three months when they were still on their learner’s permit. The reason for this is risky behavior, such as rapid acceleration, sudden braking and hard turns, which rarely happen during the “learner’s permit” phase because young drivers are just learning the basic concepts of driving and, more likely, because they are driving under adult supervision.
The report also found teenagers at a higher risk while driving under favorable driving conditions such as dry roads during the daytime, as opposed to driving in a less risky manner on wet roads at night. The teens were actually being careful and less inclined to take risks during unfavorable driving conditions. Male teenagers were found to be generally more inclined to exhibit risky behavior than female teens, yet the crash rates were similar across genders during the first few years as drivers.
In the near forty-year history of our insurance agency, I remember only a single occasion when one of our learner permit clients had an accident. The reason I remember it is that the client was my own son! My middle son, Eric, had an accident while driving on familiar roads in our home town while his mother was with him. Eric had practiced extensively, but only in his mother’s car. He was comfortable driving her car and was gaining confidence after a few months on his permit.
One afternoon when our family was heading home from a local ball field in two different cars, I thought it would be a good idea for Eric to drive my car for a change. I wanted him to “feel” the difference between two different cars.
While idling in traffic at a red light, Eric apparently applied pressure to both the accelerator and brake at the same time. As my wife later described it, the car lurched forward several times before striking the car in front of him. There were no injuries and there wasn’t a whole lot of damage, but the lesson learned that day was that different vehicles all have their own “feel,” foot pedal arrangement, turning radius, sight lines, etc. In hindsight, I wished I’d had Eric first practice with my car on a quiet street, away from traffic. That I hadn’t was my mistake.
My take-away from this experience was to remind my clients, young and old, to be extra careful with any new vehicle for the first several uses because every vehicle has its own distinct “feel,” which can affect the driver’s safety and that of others on the road.