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Youth and Driving Don't Always Mix Safely
Date:5/23/2009

ercent said they had ridden with inexperienced drivers.

Most of the kids in Ginsburg's study didn't understand that cell phones could be a distraction to a driver. They also didn't realize that having other teenage passengers in the car posed a safety risk -- a troubling statistic given that two of every three teen drivers surveyed said they often traveled with teen passengers.

"Passengers for older drivers can be neutral or even beneficial, but when teen drivers have teen passengers, they are more likely to crash," McCartt said. "That's likely due to distraction passengers bring to the vehicle, and an increased propensity to take risks."

Another study, this one in Canada, found that high-school students tend to harbor mistaken beliefs that lead them to underestimate the risks of driving. The teens in that study believed that:

  • Their youth and agility make them better able than more experienced drivers to overcome poor driving conditions or intoxication.
  • Vehicle problems and highway design are more likely than human error to cause crashes.
  • If they were in a crash, doctors would be able to save their lives and bring them completely back to normal.

But the study did contain some bits of good news as well. Teenagers seemed to understand that drinking and driving were a bad mix, Ginsburg said.

"Substances are used by a relatively few kids, because they've heard that message, and they get what the risk is," he said. "On the other hand, having passengers in the car and talking on cell phones happens more frequently, and they're all distractions."

Ginsburg said that parents need to take a role in disabusing their kids of wrong notions about driving.

"Parents matter," he said. "Parents are the ones in charge of making sure kids follow restrictions and graduated driving laws. The challenge is for parents to make clear that these restrictions aren't about control, the
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