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Teen Drivers Prone to 'G-Force' Errors, Researchers Say
Date:10/21/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Crash experts studying why newly licensed teenagers have many more accidents than adults have zeroed in on the elevated gravitational forces, or "g-forces," caused by braking late, swerving abruptly and other common new-driver mistakes.

These judgment-related maneuvers make losing vehicle control more likely and leave less time to react to hazards, said researchers with the U.S. National Institutes of Health. They also limit the ability of nearby drivers to take corrective measures.

To explore the young-driver dynamic, the NIH team studied 42 newly licensed teens -- 22 females and 20 males -- who attended high school or home school in Virginia. For comparative purposes, the researchers also assessed the driving habits of 55 parents operating the same vehicles. All were tracked for a total of 18 months between 2006 and 2008.

"This is the first naturalistic or objective assessment of teenage risky driving," explained Bruce G. Simons-Morton of the division of epidemiology, statistics and prevention research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the NIH.

"Sadly, it points out the teenage driving dilemma, which is that newly licensed drivers of all ages, but particularly teenagers, are a high risk for accidents early on," he said.

Simons-Morton, who spoke Thursday morning at an NIH teleconference, is the lead author of the study published online Oct. 20 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Novice teen drivers are almost four times as likely to end up in a car accident or close-call as adult drivers, the study found. And risky driving is five times more prevalent among new teen drivers, as compared with older, experienced drivers. Even a year or more out, as young drivers gain experience, their risky driving behavior persists, with accident rates remaining several ti
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