Inside The Mind Of Teenage Drivers
The Sacramento Bee
WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2013 -- What's going on with today's teenage drivers? Fewer teens are wanting to drive; yet, there has been a sudden surge in teenage driving deaths.
There are enormous risks associated with obtaining a driver's license. Motor vehicle fatalities are the leading cause of death for teenagers, representing over one-third of all accidental deaths in the US. Young, inexperienced drivers are overrepresented in motor vehicle crashes for both men and women, and, 75% of all teen crashes are due to driver error. Summer is especially deadly for teen drivers with 8 teens dying in traffic accidents every day between the Memorial and Labor Day holidays.
A new nationwide study, released today by Driving-Tests.org - a leading online driver education provider - reveals that teenage drivers are not only aware of the dangers involved with driving a motor vehicle, they are surprisingly insecure about their own limited ability to manage those risks.
Objectives and Analysis:
The goal of this study was to get inside the minds of teenage drivers in an effort to better understand their perspective on driving safety. Results include the following revelations:
• Considering the recent surge in teen driving deaths, what are the primary safety concerns of teenage drivers? Traffic fatalities among 16- and 17-year-old drivers jumped by 19% during the first six months of 2012, according to preliminary data compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
• 85% of teens identified texting, talking on a cellphone and driving under the influence were the 3 most dangerous things a person can do while driving,
• 50% of all teens surveyed indicated that fear - of being in an accident and of other drivers - is their primary safety concern.
• Why are fewer teens getting driver's licenses? A recent study by University of Michigan indicates that fewer teenagers are getting their driver's licenses. Only 28 percent of 16-year-olds had their driver's license in 2010, an 18% decline from 1983. The decline has been attributed to the rise of social networking and also the increased cost of driving due to higher gas prices. Does the survey agree?
• None of teens surveyed (0%) cited cost or expense as a deterrent to driving;
• 15% of teens indicated that emotional pressure have left them feeling fearful about driving;
• 28% of teens indicated that they were struggling to grasp advanced driving skills such as operating a vehicle on a highway and/or being in close proximity to trucks, turning, and parallel parking.
• With so much emphasis on texting, do teenage drivers still consider drinking and driving to be a safety hazard? In recent years there has been a remarkable increase in campaigns designed to raise awareness on the dangers of distracted driving and in particular texting and driving; at the same time, according to NHTSA, nearly one-third of drivers ages 15 to 20 who were killed in crashes had been drinking.
• While 79% of teens cited "texting" or "using a cell phone" as the most dangerous thing a person can do while driving a motor vehicle, only 9% of respondents identified drinking and driving as being a critical risk despite the evidence that over 22% of all teenage fatalities involved alcohol.
• Do male teenagers think differently about safety than female teens? The motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 16 to 19 was almost 2x that of
their female counterparts. According to the CDC, among male drivers involved in fatal crashes, 39% were speeding at the time of the crash and 25% had been drinking.
• When asked to identify the most difficult aspect of learning how to drive, 36% of male teenager indicated that "passing the driving test" was the most challenging;
• On the other hand female teens placed a higher emphasis on "developing driving skills" (47%) such as learning road signs, navigating intersections, and parallel parking as the most difficult aspects of learning how to drive.
• Are parents acting as good role models? While parental influence is often credited with making a positive difference by getting involved with their teen's driving, the example being set by some parents might raise eyebrows.
• At least 56% of teens have observed parents texting or talking on their phones;
• 18% of teens cited interior distractions (applying makeup, smoking, adjusting controls, eating) - as limiting their parent's ability to focus on the road.
• 12% of teens witnessed "dangerous driving habits" such as not wearing a seatbelt and driving with their knees.
• 8% of teens cited seeing their parents engage in aggressive driving.
Key Takeaways & Conclusions:
1. Parents should lead by example when teens are in the car by wearing a seatbelt, putting their cell phones away and focusing on the road.
2. Talk to teenagers about responsible driving. Emphasize the risks of distracted driving along with the dangers of of drinking and driving. Consider a parent-teen driving contract to increase awareness.
3. Consider registering our teen for a defensive driving class or allocating additional time to highway driving in traffic, at higher speeds and around trucks.
While teenagers generally understand the dangers and responsibilities of driving, future research is needed to explore ways to help teens become safer drivers and how to increase effectiveness in setting, promoting, and monitoring safety standards.
The methodology for the survey included an online survey of open-ended questions with a 140 character limit that was completed by 1421 participants. At least 75% of respondents were between the ages of 14 - 24; at least 50% of participants were female and at least 30% were male.
Driving-Tests.org provides free permit practice test services to empower US learner drivers in all 50 states as they prepare for their DMV exams. Since 2010, Driving-Tests.org has issued over 4.5 million practice permit tests. In 2013, the Company launched its public service campaign, "Focus on the Road" to help raise awareness and promote teen driving safety. Detailed survey results may be found here; for more information about Driving-Tests.org visit driving-tests.org.