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Teen drivers 8 times more likely to be in an accident within 3 months of getting license


A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released today vindicates auto insurers’ significantly higher rates for new teen drivers, especially males. In the first three months after obtaining a driver’s licenses, a teen is eight times more likely to be involved in a collision or a near miss compared to the previous three months of driving — with an adult — on a learner’s permit.

Teens are also four times more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as rapid acceleration, sudden braking and hard turns, during this period, researchers found. In contrast, teens on a learner’s permit drove more safely, with their crash or near-crash and risky driving rates similar to those of adults. The study appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Given the abrupt increase in driving risks when teenagers start to drive independently, our findings suggest that they may benefit from a more gradual decrease in adult supervision during the first few months of driving alone,” Bruce Simons-Morton, Ed.D., M.P.H., senior investigator at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and one of the authors of the study, said in a prepared statement.

The study is one of the first to follow the same individuals over time, from the beginning of the learner period through the first year of independent driving, while continuously collecting information using software and cameras installed in the participants’ vehicles.

The rate of risky behavior declined modestly over the first year of independent driving; however, the crash and near-crash rate for teens remained the same. They did have a lower rate of risky driving in less favorable conditions—nighttime or wet roads—than during the daytime on dry roads.

When comparing male and female teens, the study team found that the risky driving rate did not differ by gender during the learning period. However, when teenagers entered independent driving stages, males had a higher risky driving rate. This rate did not consistently decrease over time for males but did decrease for females. The crash or near-crash rate was similar across genders and driving periods.

“During the learner’s permit period, parents are present, so there are some skills that teenagers cannot learn until they are on their own,” said Pnina Gershon, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, in a prepared statement. “We need a better understanding of how to help teenagers learn safe driving skills when parents or other adults are not present.”

The researchers seek to identify factors that may improve safety and reduce specific driving risks. They plan to address whether the duration and quality of practice driving can predict future outcomes in the independent driving period. They also will explore how passengers influence driving risk during learner and independent driving periods.

More teens die in car crashes than from any other cause. And mile for mile, according to Safe Kids PA, teenagers are three times more likely to be involved in a crash compared with other drivers.

In 2012, Pennsylvania enacted a new teen driving law that required more supervised hours of practice on a learner’s permit, including 10 hours of nighttime driving and five hours of inclement weather driving. Additionally, the law put restrictions on new teen drivers, mandating that for six months after receiving their junior driver license, they may have no more than one passenger under age 18, who is not an immediate family member, in their vehicle unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

 

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