Study: Teens take fewer driving risks after serious crash

A recent study has found that crashes have a sobering effect on teenage drivers, making them significantly less likely to take risks on the road. However, the research also determined that these drivers typically resume their old habits within a few months.

The study was conducted by lead researcher Fearghal O'Brien of the National College of Ireland was well as three researchers from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It was published in "Psychological Science," a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Researchers sought to determine if part of the reason for drivers' crash risk decreasing as they age is the effect of a crash at a younger age. They looked at data from 254 drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 who were already taking part in naturalistic driving research.

According to Science Daily, these teenagers' vehicles had been outfitted with accelerometers and cameras to monitor their driving behavior. This equipment allowed researchers to examine the frequency of g-force events where acceleration exceeded a certain threshold level – an indication of unsafe behavior such as hard stops and aggressive turning.

Forty-one of the study participants were involved in crashes that were reported to police or otherwise considered severe. These included incidents where airbags deployed, the vehicle rolled over, or occupants were injured.

Among these drivers, the number of g-force events per 1,000 miles driven dropped by about 34 percent in the first month after the crash. The rate of g-force events in this group remained unchanged in the second month after the crash, and it rose significantly in the third month after the crash.

The rate of g-force events showed no significant changes among the remaining drivers in the study during the comparable time periods.

Science Daily says the researchers are planning to continue this research to get a larger dataset and examine other factors. These include whether the severity of a crash has a significant effect on a teen driver's risk taking, how long the change in driving behavior lasts, and what steps can be taken to correct risky driving behaviors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 have the highest crash risk among all age groups. The CDC says teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations and make critical decision errors.

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