According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the greatest risk for traffic violations and vehicle accidents comes from teen drivers. The immediate, jump-to conclusion might be that inexperience and emotional immaturity are the culprits. However, studies on the adolescent brain seem to indicate that neurobiology might be more of a factor. It’s common to blame hormones for irrational teen behavior, but could the fault lie more with how adolescents are wired?

Here are the primary risk factors for teen driving according to the DMV:

  • Poor hazard detection
  • Low risk perception
  • Risk-taking
  • Failure to wear seat belts
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Distractions from passengers
  • Night driving

All of these may seem like issues that a bit of practice and a heavy dose of discipline would resolve. But, as every parent of a teenager can attest, this is much easier said than done. Now, a decade-long magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of the human brain may offer an explanation.

According to researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health and the University of California at Los Angeles, the higher-order brain centers that moderate risk-taking and regulate decision-making under stress don’t fully develop until the early 20s. The prefrontal cortex that regulates risk-taking behavior is still very much a work in progress for those from 16 to 19 years of age.

Given this information, it is imperative for parents to reinforce safe driving habits for their teen children and limit their exposure to avoidable risks. Parents should restrict night driving, when teens are most vulnerable to an accident, and limit the number of friends they can chauffeur around the neighborhood. Parents should also prohibit cellphone use of any kind while driving.

If you have questions about your rights after an auto accident, talk to a knowledgeable attorney at the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker. Call 800-333-0000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, Bakersfield, Fresno, Phoenix, or Tucson.