Most people assume that brand new drivers are the most dangerous drivers on the roads. It would seem logical that a 16-year-old who just obtained his or her drivers' license has little experience behind the wheel and may not know how to react in all driving situations.
The surprising reality is these drivers may actually not be as big of a threat as those who are just slightly older.
New research shows drivers between the ages of 19 and 24 still don't have a lot of experience, but they are usually feeling more confident than their younger counterparts. As a result, many start to engage in the kind of higher-risk behaviors that can pose an auto accident risk to themselves and others. A study conducted by AAA Traffic Safety Foundation shows just how dangerous these young motorists can be by highlighting the attitudes they have towards risky driving behaviors and showcasing how often they take unsafe actions.
How Dangerous Are Young Drivers?
Drivers who are between 16 years old and 18 years old may actually be more cautious than older drivers ages 19 to 24. When asked about recent high-risk behaviors like speeding, running a red light on a just-changed signal, or texting while driving, nearly 70 percent of drivers ages 16 to 18 admitted to doing these things recently. While this seems like a lot, compare them to seniors, the demographic group least likely to engage in these behaviors. Around 67 percent of seniors ages 60 to 74 said they'd sped, run a red, or used their phones to text or email. This is only slightly less than young teens.
Now look at driving habits of motorists between the ages 19 to 24. In total, nearly 89 percent of drivers within this age range said they'd sped, run a red light, or used their phones to send some type of message while driving. Motorists between the ages of 19 and 24 were about twice as likely to have typed emails or texts while driving and were 1.6 times as likely to read emails or texts while driving, when comparing their answers to the percentage of drivers across all age groups engaging in these behaviors.
Motorist ages 19 to 24 were also more likely to run red lights. While 36 percent of all drivers admitted going through a signal if the light had only recently changed and six percent of drivers said they thought this behavior was safe, around half of young adult drivers 19 to 24 admitting to doing this and 14 percent said they thought it was safe to do.
Drivers ages 19 to 24 were also more likely to exceed the posted speeding limit. Compared with all drivers, these young adult motorists were 1.4 times as likely to go 10 MPH or more over a residential speed limit and 12 percent of them thought speeding in a residential neighborhood was OK. Only five percent of all drivers overall share this opinion.
There are many proposed reasons why young adult drivers may start to do more dangerous things while driving, as compared with drivers who are just a few years younger. Younger teens may not yet feel confident enough to actually take risks while driving. Young teens are also more likely to be living with their parents and are more likely to be supervised in how they drive, and are more likely to have recently taken drivers' education courses emphasizing dangers of high-risk driving behaviors.
Our experienced auto accident attorneys know that speeding, running red lights, and distracted driving are all ways motorists breach their legal duty to use reasonable care behind the wheel. This is a duty they owe to their passengers and all other people using the road. A breach of this legal duty resulting in injury to another is called negligence, and it can be grounds for a lawsuit.