Kids Health Matters: Teenage drivers

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Many teens really look forward to driving. And parents want their teens to be safe behind the wheel.

Many teens really look forward to driving. And parents want their teens to be safe behind the wheel.

Katie's navigating what looks like a video game.

But through this simulator, Children's Hospital safety researchers are gaining important insights on how teens drive.

Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says, "Do you know, we found that teens brake at half the brake pressure in an emergency situation that adults do?"

Teens are more likely than adults to be in crashes, including fatal ones.

Dr. Winston says it's not just due to taking chances.

"It's inexperience, it's distraction, it's lack of skills, rather than risky driving," she adds.

It takes many miles and years to gain the skills which make a good driver.
  • Such as the safe distance to follow another vehicle.

  • How to scan ahead and anticipate hazards.

  • Or how to handle bad road and weather conditions.


Dr. Winston said, "The reality is, they don't know they're inexperienced."

Graduated Drivers Licenses are the only proven measure for reducing teen crashes.

"It reduces the crash rate, particularly fatal crash rate, by 40 per cent in states that have adopted them," says Dr. Winston.

"The purpose of Graduated Drivers Licenses is to expose teens to a high variety and high complexity of driving over time, as they gain experience, maturity, and skills," she adds.

They usually have 3 stages - gradually reducing adult supervision and other restrictions as teens gain drive-time.

The limits vary from state to state.

But Dr. Winston says those are minimums. A family should consider its own GDL rules.

For example, most state limits end at age 18.

But with nearly half of teens now getting licenses after 18, limits can be extended.

Dr. Winston says, "It's not the fact that you're a teen, it's the fact you're a novice and a teen."

New Jersey is the only state which does extend its GDL past 18.

Research done in the Garden State by the Children's Hospital's Center for Injury Research and Prevention shows that contrary to what some adults might think, 90% of teens do adhere to the GDL provisions.

The hospital now has a website, teendriversource.org, with videos & tips to help teens be better drivers, and parents be better driving coaches.

And using the simulator, it's created Diagnostic Driving, a new assessment tool for making all drivers safer.
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