Relinquishing car keys to a teen can be a terrifying notion. Even teens themselves are more hesitant to get a license and get behind the wheel on their own. Research from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute shows there’s been a decline in high schoolers that drive - which isn’t a totally good thing.
High Teen Crash Risk After Getting a License
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a warning for teen drivers. Be very careful in your first three months of driving. A NIH study found that teen drivers are eight times more likely to get in a crash within several months of getting a license.
Before walloping something with their vehicle these young drivers were four times more likely to take part in risky driving behavior (i.e. sudden braking and acceleration). Think girls are more responsible drivers than boys? If you said yes, you’d be right. The NIH study noted no gender difference in risky driving while teens had a learner’s permit. However, as soon as they transition to independent drivers, male teens get riskier on the road.
But not all teen drivers are driving with reckless abandon. Teens with permits drive much more safely than their licensed counterparts. In fact, they’re just as safe as adult drivers.
Driving at 16 Could Be Safer Overall
Just 28% of 16-year olds got their driver’s license in 2010. That’s a nearly 50% decline since 1980 and the numbers aren’t going up. Some parents see this as a good thing, until they learn about the long-term consequences.
In Washington state there’s been a significant increase in young people waiting until they’re 18-21 years old to get a license. There are many reasons for the delay, but a fair amount of people who waited said they did so because they didn’t want to pay for driver’s ed and have to get a permit.
Therein lies the problem.
Washington Department of Licensing data shows that drivers who waited until they were 18 to get their license received three times as many tickets as people who got their license at 16 years old. More surprising is that people who started driving on their own at 16 got the least amount of tickets out of all young drivers, including people who got a driver’s license at 25 years old.
The youngest drivers have to go through a permit period and there are also driving restriction until they are 18. This helps to improve safety while they build their real world driving skills.
Another factor is parental supervision. If a teen gets their driver’s license in high school they’re still under the watchful eye of their parents. Adults can help reduce risk by not ripping off the driving band-aid. The safer bet is to ease teen drivers into cruising solo those first three months after getting a license by restricting driving time and distances.
However, NIH researchers note that teens have to learn safe driving skills while parents aren’t in the vehicle. One of the best ways to ensure teens drive safe for years to come is driver’s ed. Not only are people who take driver’s ed less likely to get tickets, they are also less likely to be involved in a fatal car accident.
Moral of the story: driver’s ed courses, involved parents and practice take the risk out of teenage driving.