Last month, our San Francisco injury law firm shared a blog post focused on the dangerous combination of teen drivers and speed. In that entry, we focused on statistics and stories demonstrating the increased danger posed by speeding teens. Those numbers lend urgency to the discussion in today’s post, which looks at reasons why teens speed and what can be done to stop the threat. We hope this inquiry will prevent speed-related crashes and keep travelers of all ages safe on California’s roads.
A Quick Review of the Risk
As noted in our prior discussion, the Governors Highway Safety Association (“GHSA”) released a report earlier this year titled “Speeding-Related Fatal Crashes Among Teen Drivers and Opportunities for Reducing the Risks.” The study sought to fill a gap in safety studies, noting that there is compelling evidence of the danger posed when teens speed but that the link “remains under the radar when crash risk is highlighted.” In brief, statistics show that speeding is a factor in 33% of fatal crashes involving teens, but speeding is only implicated in 19% of fatal accidents involving adults. Speeding is also a bigger threat when teen drivers are carrying teen passengers than when a teen drives alone.
Why Teens Speed: The Double Danger of Youth and Inexperience
Why do teens speed and why does teen speeding pose a greater threat than speeding by older drivers? The GHSA points to both age/maturity level and inexperience behind the wheel as culprits. Cognitive research shows that teens do not have a fully developed sense of judgment and their brains show a greater tendency to take risks. The influence of peers also appears to be rooted in the teenage brain, which may explain why carrying teen passengers (multiplying the risk-taking tendencies, adding the desire to be socially accepted) raises the risk of speeding and speed-related crashes. Teen’s inexperience behind the wheel is an additional factor in their elevated accident risk. Inexperience is compounded by a tendency to overestimate their own abilities, meaning teens often believe they can handle a high rate of speed when their limited experience does not support the assumption.
What We Can Do: Education, Licensure, and Technology
What can be done to prevent teens from speeding and reduce the speed-related accident risk? The study authors call for further research into drivers’ education programs since there is little empirical evidence that traditional classes produce safe drivers. However, evidence does suggest that advanced vehicle handling skills programs do produce more capable drivers. Graduated driver licensing programs have also been shown to reduce the teen accident rate, especially when tied to identified risks (ex. California’s rule that provides drivers under 18 may not carry passengers under age 20 during the first year of licensed driving unless supervised by a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult over age 25).
Technology can also encourage teens to keep their speeds in check. The report cites success with in-vehicle devices that warn teens of a violation and allow them the opportunity to self-correct (i.e. slow down) before sending a notification to the teen’s parents. Automated-speed cameras have also been shown to prevent speeding by drivers of all ages.
A Reminder: Explanations versus Excuses
We believe it is important to understand why people engage in risky behaviors; understanding causes can help shape solutions. However, it is crucial to remember that explanations are not excuses. There are reasons why teens speed, but adult privileges carry adult responsibilities. Teens need to see that the law will hold them responsible for careless decisions. Holding teens legally responsible for their actions provides victims with needed compensation and helps deter other young people from engaging in dangerous behavior behind the wheel. If a speeding teen caused a crash that left you injured or claimed the life of a loved one, call our San Francisco car accident injury attorney to discuss your legal rights.