Young, particularly male, drivers are significantly over-represented in vehicular crashes. One obvious reason is lack of driving experience, often demonstrated by delayed, excessive or inappropriate actions. It is interesting to note that high school driver education programs, contrary to what seems logical, have not proved to be particularly effective in reducing crash frequency and severity among young drivers. Although it is unknown if a more intensive and rigorous program would be effective, it appears that social and personal responsibility may be more important than driving skill or experience. Young drivers tend to exhibit unacceptable and willful behaviors such as speeding, excessive lane changing, and other reckless maneuvers.
According to behavioral scientists, an important explanation of the high rate of teenage automobile accidents may be explained by human brain development. The area of the brain related to the ability to perceive the possible consequences of one’s actions is not fully developed until the late teens or early twenties. This can lead to feelings of invincibility, resulting in risky behavior. Feeling “bullet proof” makes for brave and effective soldiers, but is definitely not a desirable characteristic for the safe operation of motor vehicles.
There are, therefore, science-based, valid reasons for raising the minimum age for obtaining a driver’s license.
Requiring a probation period for young drivers is another countermeasure with some apparent success when rigorously enforced. An automatic suspension from age 16 to 18, or from 18 to 21, for willful driving offenses such as speeding, tailgating or other reckless maneuvering shows some promise of being an effective deterrent to unacceptable driving behavior.
Fortunately, most young drivers will, if they survive, outgrow this destructive behavior. Until then, we should take measures to better protect them – and ourselves.
More information on related topics can be found in Highway Accidents: Investigation, Reconstruction and Causation available at: Amazon.com. Information about the book and author is available at: www.bmorrow.com