Sixty percent of the young people interviewed said that driving experience was very important, but only 15 percent said they personally hit the roads with inexperienced drivers. "And yet everyone they are driving with is virtually inexperienced," Ginsburg noted.
"There is no shame or disgrace in being inexperienced. It's just a fact of life," Ginsburg said. "Until you gain that experience, everything is more dangerous," he said.
Driver distractions mixed with inexperience are dangerous, Ginsburg added, and "alcohol mixed with inexperience is truly deadly," he said.
In addition, only 10 percent of teens recognized that having passengers in the car was potentially hazardous, but nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said they often traveled with other teen passengers. Many more believed that only passengers who "act wild" or "dance or sing" posed a risk.
Most teens didn't think cell phones were risky, unless they evoked certain strong emotional responses.
The researchers also found differences among subgroups of teens. For example, white teens tended to think speeding was less risky (although it commonly occurred) compared to black or Hispanic youths.
However, black and Hispanic teens viewed drinking while driving as less risky than white teens did. And more black and Hispanic teens said that their peers sometimes drank while driving, compared with white teens.
There is a solution for inexperienced drivers, Ginsburg said. "That solution is graduated driver's licenses, where exposures to dangerous situations are minimized while teens continue to gain experience," he said. "Making sure the kids learned one step at a time, until they gain experience, will save many lives."
Graduated driver's licenses limit teens from driving during certain times of the day or carr
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