Teens have a lot more to be worried about on the road, a new study finds. Parents might feel overbearing for imposing strict rules for their novice and teen drivers but they’re often right for doing so. Learn why teens may be more susceptible to distracted driving – and what you can do to minimize dangerous behavior in your teen.
According to Biology Teens Are More Naturally Distracted
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens are 3 times more likely to send a text while driving. This isn’t the only reason they’re more likely to become distracted on the road – it’s a simple matter of biology.
Daniel Keating is a psychology professor at the University of Michigan who studies adolescents and driving behavior. According to him, teens are still in the process of developing a concept called “regulatory competence.” In layman’s terms, this is an ability to control one’s emotions, regulate attention, and function competently under challenging circumstances.
Our brains essentially develop from back to front. The prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s executive control center, develops more slowly than more primal systems like the limbic system, which controls reward and arousal. For a teen, the impulsive drive to answer a text is more irresistible than is to an adult, despite the known risks.
A teen’s developing brain also affects their ability to respond effectively to stressful situations, according to Keating. If there are a lot of distractions in a car – such as other teens or even loud music – they all affect a teen’s ability to drive effectively. On long trips, it can seriously impact a teen’s chances of being in an accident – or even affect their ability to take corrective actions to avoid a crash.
Dangerous Distractions for Teens and Those Around Them
We often associate distracted driving with texting, and it’s one of the more common contributing factors to car accidents. On the other hand, several other distractions could seriously endanger your teen. Add the fact that teenage drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seatbelts, and you have a dangerous combination.
Teens are susceptible to many different kinds of distractions behind the wheel:
- Texting and driving split your attention, takes your hands off the wheel, and takes your eyes off the road. A single text can take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds.
- Driving with other teens can be even more distracting for teens than texting. Since teens are more susceptible to peer pressure, they’re more likely to acquiesce to a request to drive faster or neglect their seatbelt.
- Using mobile apps like social media applications to post a selfie while driving, or music apps that take attention from the road while changing a channel. The temptation to surf the web while behind the wheel is a temptation for teens.
Preventing Distracted Driving
Fortunately, parents can take steps to reduce distracted driving in their teen:
- Restrict your teen’s ability to drive with passengers.
- Tell them to turn their phone off and store it in the glove box while driving. A tracking app can help keep them honest while adding to your peace of mind.
- Encourage your teen drivers to preload an album or playlist before hitting the road. Resist the urge to constantly fiddle with the radio, which can be more distracting than you think.
Teens are more naturally distracted behind the wheel; it’s a simple matter of their still-developing brain. Talk to your teen drivers about minimizing their distractions behind the wheel to maximize their safety. By taking some simple steps, you and your teen can significantly reduce his or her chances of being in a car accident.