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Teen driving
March 25, 2013
by Jenni Sebora

Recent research on adolescent brain development by scientists and various research institutes, including the National Institute of Health, indicates that areas of the brain that inhibit risky behavior, control impulses, and regulate emotions are not fully developed until the early to mid-20s.

Yet, we are asking our teens to take on very adult and mature responsibilities, such as driving.

My oldest child, our son, just turned 16 and will be getting his driver’s license very soon. He is a great kid, but nonetheless, a kid.

I know, if any teenagers are reading this, they would be in great defiance of my words, but as a mother and a teacher who has studied brain development and actually did my graduate study and a thesis on traumatic brain injury, I believe 16-year-olds are not ready for the great responsibility of driving a vehicle 55 miles an hour on a highway where other people are driving their vehicles 55 miles per hour or faster.

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury for teenagers. Car crashes by 16-year-olds double when there are two teens in the car, and quadruple with three teens in the car.

A teen’s judgment deteriorates with distractions, such as peers in the car, cell phones, food, and music.

These are all distracters for teens, and adults for that matter, while driving. These need to be eliminated or minimized as much as possible to increase the safety in driving, especially for teens.

Because teens’ brains are immature in their development, teenagers have an imbalanced risk context. This can result in participating in risky behaviors, even though they know the behavior is not right. The “rush” that they get from taking that risky behavior outweighs the attention to the possible results of the risky behavior.

Having a peer in the car – an audience – increases the teen’s engagement in a risky behavior. The bigger the audience, the greater the chance for risk-taking, thus the greater the chance of a car crash.

There is a reason why insurance rates go up when a teenager is put on the policy, especially a male driver. Wow. I could not believe how much our family’s auto insurance rates will be going up now that our son will be on the policy, and that is with a good student discount.

I read in an article that female brain development is completed anywhere from one to years earlier than a male’s – keeping in mind individuality of the teens.

Of course, helping teens be safer while operating a vehicle also means practice, practice, and practice in driving. Teens should practice driving with adults at night, during inclement weather, and on busier highways. There are various driving schools that offer instruction in driving in such conditions. I believe this is a good idea.

I also believe it is a good idea that states have laws for teen driving, such as having no peers riding with a teen driver during the first six months after they get their license. I think laws regarding no cell phone usage for teenagers while driving should not be out of the question.

Driving is a huge responsibility, and we are giving it to teens. Laws need to be in place to help minimize distractions that can lead to risky behavior and car accidents.


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