Teen drivers: Proceed with caution

U. TEXAS-AUSTIN (US) — Teenagers driving a pickup truck are 100 percent more likely to be severely injured during a crash than a teen of the same age driving a car.

New research also finds that it is more dangerous for a driver regardless of age to have one teenage passenger in the vehicle instead of two or three, perhaps because with one passenger a driver feels an obligation to entertain or stay focused on their passenger.

Details of the study by Chandra Bhat, professor of transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, are published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Bhat’s study is the first of its kind to examine how aggressive driving behavior—as well as other driving factors like time of day and number of passengers in a vehicle—relates to the severity of injuries sustained during a traffic accident.

The research adds to the ongoing public dialogue to find measures to counter aggressive driving and improve driver safety, especially among teenagers for which the leading causes of death are vehicle crashes.

The study’s other key findings include:

•    Drivers tend to be the most aggressive during morning rush hour, due to time pressures to reach their office or school as well as closer vehicle spacings.

•    Young adults are likely to continue driving aggressively until about 20 years of age, when accompanied by other young adults.

•    Drinking and driving is the deadliest combination for teen drivers and a parental lack of involvement may be a contributing factor in this.

•    When it comes to aggressive driving behavior, a 16-17 year old is 368 percent more likely to drive aggressively than those 65 or older, while a teen just a couple of years older is only 195 percent more likely. In short, the younger a teen is, the more likely he/she will drive aggressively.

The study focused on traffic data collected by safety researchers at the scene of roughly 7,000 crashes in the United States between January 2005 and December 2007.

Unlike previous studies on aggressive driving that focused on human behavior or used data collected from police reports or from self-reporting in hypothetical situations, the method in the current study allowed researchers to be on the scene of an accident to speak with police, drivers, passengers, and witnesses at the time of the crash.

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