Teen drivers

Teen drivers are often involved in fatal crashes. In fact, the rate of fatal crashes for less than eighteen year olds per mile nearly doubles when compared to drivers aged eighteen and nineteen, and is three times higher than the rate for drivers over twenty.

With these insights parents should be concerned and ultimately ask the question: should we really trust our children to drive? Carmudi, the safest way to sell or buy your car online, examined accident data and the neuroscience behind teen brain development to answer the question of whether teens should be allowed to drive in Nigeria.

According to Carmudi, when it comes to reckless driving and teenagers, it isn’t a case of not knowing any better. Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that the part of the human brain that weighs risks and controls impulsive behaviour isn’t fully developed until about age 25. The nucleus accumbens, which registers pleasure, grows from childhood, reaching the maximum extent in the teenage brain, and then begins to shrink. This, combined with a surge of dopamine receptors, which are responsible for signaling enjoyment, makes teenagers rewards seem much greater. To the teenage brain, the reward is greater than the risk. “In addition to brain chemistry, teen driving behavior contributes to auto accidents. Teens are more likely to engage in high-risk behavior. This includes checking their cell phones, as they become more comfortable with driving. After sixteen months of driving, teens are involved in distracting behavior twice as often as adults. Texting or making calls increases the risk of crashing threefold,” the report stated.

To Carmudi, the age of vehicles driven by teens is also a contributing factor to the fatality rate. “Nearly half of drivers’ in their teens who died in car crashes from 2008 to 2012 had cars that were at least 11 years old. The positive news is that automakers are increasingly building safer cars. Today, vehicles boast all sorts of safety features, from dynamic head restraints and advanced seat belts, to the all important ESC. Electronic Speed Control works by automatically applying the brakes to individual wheels in order to help drivers maintain control in extreme steering maneuvers. While accidents might not decrease, the goal of future car designs is that fatal accidents will.”

Amy Muoneke, the managing director of Carmudi Nigeria, advice parents to exhibit characters worthy of emulation why driving. She said that teens easily copy bad driving behaviour from parents. “Not handing the car keys over is not the answer to teen road fatalities. Parents play the biggest role in keeping their teens safe behind the wheel. Aside from safer vehicles for teens and education on the awareness of cellphone and seatbelt usage, parents also have to be aware of their own driving habits. Teens pick up small driving habits on how their parents drive. Does Dad wear his seatbelt? Is Mom talking on her cellphone? These small habits can actually have a major impact”, she said.

According to research,  road traffic deaths in Africa predicted to rise by 80% by 2020. New facts emerging show that the rise in the number may be linked to the physiological status of new drivers. Ultimately a parent should be concerned about allowing their teenagers drive. In Nigeria speed induced road traffic crashes accounted for 50.8% of reported road traffic crashes.

By Pita Ochai 


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