Teenagers and young adults are at greater risk of being in a Missouri auto accident than more experienced and older drivers. There is more than one reason for this. You might assume that the lack of experience is the primary cause, and it is certainly a part of it, but there is much more to it than this. For instance, the brain does not fully develop until around the age of 25, and the last parts of the brain to develop are those that deal with reasoning and careful decision making. Beyond this, research has revealed that some teenagers have a lower response to the stress hormone, Cortisol. Those who have a lower response to this hormone are more likely to engage in unsafe driving behaviors, while those who have a higher response are less likely to do so.
Why Does Cortisol Affect the Driving Behavior of Teens and Young Adults?
Cortisol is the stress hormone, which means that this is the hormone that is released whenever a person is dealing with some kind of stress. When teenagers have a low response to this hormone, they are less capable of responding appropriately to stress. Thus, when stressful situations occur on the road, they may be unable to think through the most logical and practical course of action, the safest course of action. They are more likely to make the wrong decision in such cases. Those who have a higher response to this hormone are better able to think clearly when faced with stressful situations on the road. They can respond appropriately by adjusting their speed, their steering, or other variables involved in making the right decisions on the road. Further, they are more capable of maintaining an appropriate level of concentration on the road, despite any distractions and stressors that may be going on around them or in their lives. This was shown through research that studied both the level of Cortisol in teen drivers, their responses to stressful tasks, and their driving behavior.
Teenagers with Pre-Existing Conditions and Likelihood of Risky Driving Behavior
Further research into the effects of the stress hormone, Cortisol and how teens respond to stress is intended to
compare healthy teenagers with teenagers who had some pre-existing condition or other history of engaging in risky or impulsive behaviors. It is likely that those with conditions like ADHD, mood disorders, and other conditions are even more at risk of getting into auto accidents within Missouri and making unsafe or risky driving decisions, particularly when the circumstances are stressful, such as in high traffic conditions or bad weather conditions.
These teenagers who have such conditions and are at increased risk of getting into an auto accident within Missouri should be taught about the risks and how to respond to stressful situations, though all teenagers would benefit from increased supervision when they start driving and advice and guidance on what to do when they become stressed behind the wheel or when certain stressful situations occur. For example, the adults in their lives can discuss how to behave in specific scenarios, such as if an accident occurs, if the weather becomes dangerous, or when there are distractions within the vehicle or outside of the vehicle.
Helping Teenage Drivers to Establish Safe Driving Habits on Missouri Roads
There are many factors that can contribute to unsafe driving behaviors in teen drivers. In some cases, they are not as focused or aware of their surroundings. In other cases, they are so excited by the prospect of their newfound independence that the excitement itself can be distracting. In many cases, teenage drivers have a sense of invincibility, like the traumatic experiences that happen to others will never happen to them. Then, there are those teen drivers who are not as confident or excited about driving, but are actually overcautious or anxious about the experience. In any event, all teen drivers need to be taught to establish safe driving habits.
Following are some of the most important skills to teach your teen driver to ensure that they are making safe decisions on the road:
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings at All Times
- Be Aware of Your Speed at All Times
- Avoid All Distractions While Driving
- Watch Carefully for Pedestrians
- Know How to Respond to an Accident
It is important for teenage drivers to be aware of their surroundings at all times. You can teach them to do this by always checking their mirrors, paying attention to what other vehicles are doing, and checking blind spots, for example. It is also important for teens to be taught to always follow the speed limit and check their speed, regularly. It can be easy to go over the speed limit if the teen is not experienced and is not paying close enough attention. Further, teens need to be taught about how to adjust their speed according to traffic conditions, weather, construction, and other road conditions. They should pay careful attention in residential areas for children and other pedestrians, and ensure that they adjust their speed in school zones. Many teens do not have the experience that they need to know when to slow down, even when no speed limit tells them to do so. For instance, if the weather is bad, they need to know that they should slow down to accommodate their decreased visibility and the potential of losing control of the vehicle on ice. This may sound like common sense to adult drivers and experienced drivers, but it may not be common sense to a new driver.
Teenage drivers are also more prone to distractions and more likely to give into the impulse to check their phones, read and respond to text messages, or engage in arguments with passengers while driving. They may be more inclined to be distracted by conditions and events inside or outside of their vehicles, and they should be taught to respect the seriousness of the danger of distractions while driving. Teach your teen driver to keep their phone turned off while driving and to avoid arguments and/or in depth discussions with passengers that might distract them. Teach them not to eat or drink while driving and to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road at all times. Removing your attention from the task at hand for just a few seconds is enough to cause a tragic accident, and teens need to be aware of this.
Were You or a Loved One Injured in a Missouri Auto Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Missouri auto accident, contact the attorneys at the Krause & Kinsman Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your options.
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.