‘Jerky’ driving by teen drivers increases accidents, study shows

A new study of newly licensed teen drivers confirms what many had suspected: that the “jerky way” they sometimes drive, with starts which are too fast, braking that may be hard to stop and many sharp turns, can cause car accidents. Of course, not all teens drive this way. But some do, and their behavior can be predictors of accidents.

Researchers utilized both camera and computer equipment to assess the gravitational force events caused by such driving patterns. They studied the driving habits of 42 teen motorists who recently became licensed to drive, and recorded the number of turns executed in a sharp screeching manner, as well as the number of rapid starts.

Tracking the results for each teen driver over a year and a half, the researchers found that the individual drivers had anywhere from zero to approximately 50 “elevated g-force” (gravitational force) events in every 100 miles of driving.

The teens involved in the study made a total of 68,000 driving trips, and had 37 car crashes, as well as 242 incidents considered “near crashes,” a frightening total considering that only 42 drivers were being observed. The number of elevated g-force events, stemming from quick starts, sharp turns, and hard stops, predicted the possibility of an accident, with the number of crashes increasing as the number of such incidents rose.

Reducing the number of car accidents involving teen motorists, researchers believe, will require efforts to reduce risky driving behavior among them. They urge the parents of teen drivers to closely monitor the driving habits of their sons and daughters by trying to reduce the possibility that they will engage in behavior likely to cause an accident.

Both parents and legislators should be made aware, the researchers say, that teen drivers are sometimes at very high risk for traffic accidents. Reducing nighttime driving and driving during inclement weather conditions by teen motorists might also be beneficial.

Source: EmpowHer, “Risky starts and stops predict teen crashes,” Feb. 20, 2012