NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Teen Crash Risk Highest During First 3 Months After Getting Driver’s License

Teenage drivers are 8 times more likely to be involved in a collision or near miss during the first 3 months after getting a driver’s license, compared to the previous 3 months on a learner’s permit, suggests a study led by NICHD. Teens are also 4 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as rapid acceleration, sudden braking and hard turns during this period. In contrast, teens on a learner’s permit drove more safely, with their crash/near crash and risky driving rates similar to those of adults. The study appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Given the abrupt increase in driving risks when teenagers start to drive independently, our findings suggest that they may benefit from a more gradual decrease in adult supervision during the first few months of driving alone,” said NICHD senior investigator Dr. Bruce Simons-Morton, one of the authors of the study.

The study is one of the first to follow the same individuals over time, from the beginning of the learner period through the first year of independent driving, while continuously collecting information using software and cameras installed in the participants’ vehicles.

The study also evaluated parents’ driving in the same vehicles, over the same time, on similar roads and under similar driving conditions as their children. Near-crash events were those requiring a last-moment maneuver to avoid a crash, while crashes were physical contact between the driver’s vehicle and another object.

The study enrolled 90 teenagers and 131 parents in Virginia and the data collection system was developed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Blacksburg.

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