NIH research shows risk factors for teen drivers' high crash rates
A major study has identified risky driving as an underlying factor for the high crash rates of newly licensed teen drivers.
Balintfy: Researchers using sensitive data recording devices Ė including video cameras and global positional systems — have found that newly licensed teenagers are more likely than older drivers to engage in risky driving behavior.
Simons-Morton: This actually confirms findings from other studies that are self-report or observational but this is the first objective assessment of teenage risky driving.
Balintfy: Dr. Bruce Simons-Morton, an NIH scientist and prevention researcher, explains a recent study is unique because of its use of technology.
Simons-Morton: The instrumentation included cameras, so we would know whatís happening inside and outside of the vehicle. GPS, so we know where they are going and we could assess speed. And accelerometers which allowed us to measure gravitational force events which is changes is acceleration such as rapid starts, hard stops, sharp turns and swerves.
Balintfy: The study shows that although crashes and near crashes decline over the first 18 months of having a license teenage drivers maintain a risky style of driving. This driving behavior increases the likelihood of a crash.
Simons-Morton: Teens engaged in risky driving sort of a style; they actually got better at driving in this risky manner because their crash rates declined but they maintained on average a very high level of risky driving. Itís not clear if this behavior is due to intent, that is they may have driven this way because itís sort of fun or because they are simply clueless about the risks of such driving.
Balintfy: According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group. Dr. Simons-Morton says this study has implications for prevention.
Simons-Morton: Sadly it points out the teenage driving dilemma which is that newly licensed drivers of all ages who are particularly teenagers are at high risk for crashes early on because they're inexperienced. It takes a lot of practice to become better. But all drivers eventually become relatively good. The dilemma is that teens only learn by driving but the more they drive, the greater their risk.
Balintfy: But Dr. Simons-Morton notes there are ways to reduce the risk of crashes.
Simons-Morton: The solution to the dilemma from a policy and prevention point of view is to limit the conditions under which newly licensed teenagers are allowed to drive either through graduated driver licensing which is not in place in every state in the nation but which varies from state to state in terms of its strictness and by parents who can set limits on certain conditions such as the number of passengers, the use of electronic devices, late night driving, high speed roads; this may not limit their risky driving but it limits the conditions that are most right for serious crashes.
Balintfy: The study results have been published in the American Journal of Public Health. For more information on this study, visit www.nichd.nih.gov. And to hear more from Dr. Simons-Morton, tune into episode 146 of the NIH Research Radio podcast. This is Joe Balintfy, at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. Bruce Simons-Morton
Topic: risky driving, teen driver, teenager, driving, driving behavior, crash, accident, teenage driving, teenage driver, license, drivers license, risk, car, motor vehicle crash