All new drivers can make incorrect decisions behind the wheel. However, teens bring to the road a unique mix of inexperience, distraction, peer pressure and a tendency to underestimate risk.
Most Americans learn to drive during the teen years, when the brain is not fully mature. Recent research is beginning to give us insight into why many teens have difficulty regulating risk-taking behavior:
- The area of the brain that weighs consequences, suppresses impulses and organizes thoughts does not fully mature until about age 25.
- Hormones are more active in teens, which influence the brain’s neurochemicals that regulate excitability and mood. The result can be thrill-seeking behavior and experiences that create intense feelings.
Learning to regulate driving behavior comes with time and practice. Defensive Driving Course-Alive at 25® offers a balanced approach to help teens not only regulate their own driving behavior, but also help them deal with the actual issues that can influence their driving behavior.
Driver education programs play a role in preparing teens to drive, but should not be viewed as the end of the learning-to-drive process. In order to develop safe driving skills, inexperienced drivers need opportunities to improve through gradual exposure to increasingly-challenging driving tasks. Teens become safer drivers with more driving experience.
In some states, the completion of driver education qualifies a teen for full driving privileges. The National Safety Council believes this is not a wise approach. Research shows that significant hours of behind-the-wheel experience are necessary to reduce crash risk. Parent involvement and Graduated Driver Licensing play important roles in developing skills.