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Overconfidence and teen drivers

Driving can seem like an overwhelming task, when something goes wrong. A rain is falling in the Macon area and the roads are a little slick. A driver approaches an intersection, when they hear their cellphone ring, sitting on the passenger seat.

Reacting, they look in that direction and reach for it. When they return their eyes to the road, they see the traffic signal has turned red and traffic has stopped in front of them. They slam on the brakes and the car begins to slide. What should they do?

For an experienced driver, instinctively they steer into the slide, are able to recover and narrowly avoid a car accident with a vehicle in the other lane. For the teen driver, who may never have driven in rain, and lacks the years of driving experience, this could have been a disastrous scenario.

A new report from the New England Journal of Medicine underscores this danger. It studied the distracted driving behavior of teens and found that while most begin driving with care, within a few months, as their confidence in their driving ability grows, they often begin to attempt to multitask, texting or changing radio stations, emulating drivers that are more experienced.

But, because they lack the years of experience, they are less able to cope with this distraction. This is not to say that more experienced drivers should dial their cell phone or text, as any activity that takes your eyes off the road is potentially very dangerous.

This report suggests that we need to reinforce the restrictions on highly distracting activities like texting and remind teen drivers that they only really learn how to drive after they have received their license.

Source: NPR, "When Teen Drivers Multitask, They're Even Worse Than Adults," Maanvi Singh, January 01, 2014

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