The most common mistakes made by teen drivers

Adam Kosloff

One mistake can set off a chain of events that leads to a crash. And teens -- who are just learning the rules of the road -- often make more mistakes than most drivers. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in conjunction with State Farm Insurance conducted a study to pinpoint the errors that teens are making in the moments before an accident.

Most common errors

According to the study, three crucial errors played a significant role in about half of serious accidents involving teen drivers:

  1. Distractions. Teens who blast music, chatter or text on cellphones, or talk with friends inside the car are at a much higher risk of crashing. According to the study, the crash risk doubles if two teens ride in the car together, and it triples if there are two or more teen passengers.
  2. Driving too fast for conditions. Teen drivers may not have enough "feel" for the road and may overestimate their abilities to cope with curves, slippery roads or emergency stops. A familiarity with various road conditions is something most teens lack.
  3. Failure to scan. Experienced drivers tend to constantly scan the road far ahead as well as the roadside, a habit developed over years of driving. New drivers, however, generally haven't developed this skill and focus only on the road directly in front of the vehicle, according to State Farm. That means they won't have time to react to things like a deer that suddenly darts into the road.

Notice what was not on the list: aggressive driving or thrill-seeking driving. Stereotypes about teen drivers paint them as daredevils. But, according to the study, distraction and inexperience are far more deadly.

Learning from their mistakes

Understanding the most common mistakes teen drivers make is the first step toward saving lives, according to State Farm. Targeting these errors in driver's education programs will allow teens to hit the road with safer habits and an awareness of their weaknesses.

State Farm also praises strong graduated driver licensing laws. Such laws, now in effect in most states, require teens to go through several learning stages before having full driving privileges, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Some states' laws limit the number of passengers as well as cellphone use, which tackles the distraction problem. Others require a period of supervised time behind the wheel with an experienced driver, which might help teens to soak up good driving habits.

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