Consistent Driving Practice While Teens Have a Learners Permit Lead To Less Accidents During First Year: Study

New research highlights the importance of ensuring teens consistently practice their driving skills while they have a learners permit, indicating closely supervised and ample driving time is a substantial factor in reducing the risk of an auto accident during a teen’s first year of independent driving.

In findings published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers indicate parents and guardians can reduce their teens’ accident risks during their first year of driving by encouraging safe driving habits during regular driving practice before they obtain their license.

The goal of the study was to determine what parents could do during the learner period to reduce their teenager’s crash risk. It involved a review of 90 families with teenagers between 15.5 to 16.1 years old. The participants’ vehicles were equipped with sensors, monitoring the teenagers driving habits from the beginning of the learner period through the end of the first year of independent driving.

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Researchers specifically looked at the amount of driving practice, consistency and variety of driving practice, driving errors, and kinematic risky driving (KRD) rates through the learner and independent driving periods to compare outcomes. Participants were also surveyed on “sensation-seeking” personality traits that may make them more susceptible to engaging in riskier maneuvers.

Of the 90 families involved, 82 completed the study and had a total of 49 property damage crashes or police-reportable crashes during the first year of independent driving. When analyzing the learner period driving behaviors and the sensation-seeking survey results, researchers found those who drove fewer miles during their learner time frame, and those with higher sensation-seeking personality scale scores were involved in vehicle crashes sooner than others.

The team of researchers indicates that there was a direct correlation between how likely, and how quickly a teenagers was involved in a reportable crash based on their amount of time spent practicing during their learners permit period.

The study suggests that supervised practice and safe driving instruction during the learner period could have a direct impact on the reduction in teenage automobile crashes, indicating the supervision and reinforcement of safe driving habits lowers risky driving behavior among novice drivers.

Previous studies have shown supervised driving practice for teens can help not only develop good driving skills, but also deter bad habits easily picked up by new drivers, such as texting and distracted driving.

Auto accidents have become the leading cause of death for teens between the age of 15 and 18 years in the United States, ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 99,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 years are injured every year in car crashes, while nearly 2,000 young drivers are involved in fatal vehicle collisions.

Distracted driving, which includes texting while driving, has become such as widespread epidemic across the United States that the NHTSA launches a National Teen Driver Safety Week campaign annually to encourage parents and guardians to have conversation with their teenage children about the dangers associated with distracted driving. The campaign stresses the importance of distracted driving risk factors such as cell phone use and extra passengers which can consume the attention of a new driver who is already at a statistically higher rate of a crash.


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