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Many Teen Drivers Don't Think They're Inexperienced
Date:5/6/2008

But a lack of experience can be deadly, say authors of a new survey

TUESDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- America's teen drivers often underestimate their level of driving experience, putting them at risk for accidents and injuries, a new study finds.

And while many teens recognize that drinking and driving don't mix, many don't recognize other hazards, such as the distraction posed by having friends in the car.

"We listened to teenagers all around the country to try to get a sense of what they believe made a difference to safety in cars and what they were actually exposed to," said lead researcher Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "People don't normally go to teenagers and get their viewpoint," he said.

One factor making a difference in whether or not teens will be safe in cars is how they gauge their experience behind the wheel, Ginsburg said. "Teenagers are not recognizing themselves as inexperienced drivers. They are really viewing experience as something that is solved by getting a driver's license," he said.

But lack of driving experience continues to play a major role in teen injuries and fatalities among new drivers. In 2004, 4,767 U.S. teens died from injuries caused by car crashes and, in 2005, almost 400,000 teen drivers and passengers sustained injuries severe enough to require treatment in an emergency room, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Kids need to learn to take one step at a time as their skills build, and until their skills build, they need to protect themselves from distractions that can really make people unsafe in cars," Ginsburg said.

The report was published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

In the study, Ginsburg's team surveyed 5,665 high school students about their attitudes to 25 risky driving situations, as pa
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