Inside the Mind of Teenage Drivers

September 6, 2013

Today, fewer teens are driving yet more young drivers are dying behind the wheel and a new nationwide study by Driving-Tests.org reveals what's really going on inside the minds of today's teen drivers.

Teenagers are probably the most dangerous drivers on the highway and this recent study can provide valuable insight into the perils of teenagers at the wheel for everyone they share the highways with — especially commercial truckers. Teens in the study said one of their biggest fears driving around big rigs.

Here are what teens participating in the survey said were their biggest fears about driving:

36% - Being involved in an accident, crash or wreck

23% - Parallel parking, turning, highways, driving around trucks

22% - Unpredictability of and interaction with other drivers

6% - Getting lost or feeling confused

Motor vehicle fatalities are the leading cause of death for teenagers, representing over one-third of all accidental deaths in the U.S. 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 eight teens dying in traffic accidents every day between the Memorial and Labor Day holidays.

A new nationwide study, released by Driving-Tests.org — an 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.

The goal of the study was to get inside the minds of teenage drivers in an effort to better understand their perspective on driving safety. The 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 cell phone and driving under the influence were the three 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.

A recent study by University of Michigan indicates that fewer teenagers are getting their driver's licenses. Only 28% 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.

The Driving-Tests.org study found:

- 0% of teens surveyed 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.

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.

The motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 16 to 19 was almost twice 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.

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, according to researchers.

- 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.

Detailed survey results may be found here; for more information about Driving-Tests.org visit driving-tests.org.

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