Teenage drivers in the U.S. often overestimate their level of driving experience. That false confidence in their driving abilities puts them at risk for accidents and personal injuries. The finding is a result of new research published in a recent edition of the journal Pediatrics.
The research findings are particularly troubling, according to researchers, because a lack of driving experience has long played a significant role in teen injuries and fatalities among new drivers. In 2004, nearly 5,000 U.S. teens died from injuries caused by car crashes. In 2005, nearly half a million teen drivers and passengers sustained severe enough injuries to require treatment in an emergency room.
In conducting this latest study, scientists surveyed 5,665 high school students about their attitudes regarding 25 risky driving situations. Of those participants, 60% said that driving experience was very important. Though only 15% reported personally riding with inexperienced drivers, researchers discovered that, in fact, most of these teenagers rode with other inexperienced drivers a majority of the time. While 10% of teens recognized that having passengers in the car was potentially dangerous, 64% reported often traveling with other teen passengers. Most believed that cell phone use while driving was not a risky distraction, unless a particular cell phone conversation evoked a strong, distracting emotional response.
Researchers also point to the proven effectiveness of graduated driver’s license programs in building experience among young drivers before allowing them unregulated access to all driving privileges. Graduated driver’s licenses limit young, inexperienced drivers from driving during certain times of the day or from carrying young passengers.
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