Teen driving and on the phone.

Teen Brain Development & The Impact On Safe Driving

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

For many teens, driving is a rite of passage, signaling another step toward independence and maturity as they move toward their adult years.  

However, the growing rate of car accidents involving young drivers calls into question the safety of allowing teens behind the wheel. As statistics and California car accident attorneys can attest, teen drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents than older drivers. 

Long thought to be a result of inexperience, teen driving accidents are now being linked to the underdeveloped teenage brain. Let’s take a closer look at teen brain development and the impact on safe driving.

Brain Development and the Teen Driver

Medical research shows that human brains don’t fully develop until approximately age 30. As the brain develops, it does so in segments, and at varying rates between boys, girls, and individuals. The brain’s frontal lobe is last to develop, and girls’ brains tend to complete development nearly two years earlier than boys’ brains.

How the Frontal Lobe Impacts Driver Safety

The frontal lobe of the brain is the section responsible for motor skills and cognitive processes.  These functions relate to performing complex maneuvers, decision making, and emotional responses, all essential functions related to safe driving. 

Lacking a fully developed frontal lobe, teen drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as speeding and unsafe lane changes and are less likely to make rational decisions in emotional situations,  according to Bruce Simmons-Morton, senior investigator, NICHD.  

While all of us face uncertainty in roadway situations, a teen’s underdeveloped brain, coupled with limited road skills and lack of life experience, greatly impacts responses by teen drivers. 

New Rules for Teen Drivers?

In light of the physiological components affecting teen drivers, many informed suggestions have been made to increase safeguards and reduce risks associated with teen drivers:

  • Increased driver education using simulated driver training. 

Simulated driver training proposes to improve memory performance to drive under complex circumstances with multiple directions/goals, while multitasking.

  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. 

ADAS technologies would supplement working memory in teen drivers and provide alerts, notifying them of a need for increased attention to roadway hazards.

  • Implementation of tiered licensing laws that gradually introduce behind the wheel experience to teen drivers.

The NHTSA recommends a tiered permit and licensing program for teen drivers. The tiered program aims to slowly increase driving experience over several years and build working memory to help compensate for the lack of developed motor and cognitive skills in teenage brains.   

When Car Accidents Happen

Understanding the various factors affecting your teen’s safety on the road is an important step to protecting them.  However, no matter how much information is gathered or how many safety standards are implemented, accidents are bound to occur. 

If you or your teen have suffered an injury in a car accident in California, contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Our car accident attorneys have the resources and experience necessary to navigate your claim and win the compensation you deserve while you focus on recovery.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.