Do We “just” Assume Teenagers Will Crash?


In the past week I have been in meetings where I heard comments that support the belief that many people in our society hold, and that is “that teenage drivers are a crash waiting to happen.” I am appalled by this assumption and I don’t agree with it. What I do believe is that we have underestimated these young people and have put them on the roads ill prepared for what they will encounter. The result, crashes are the #1 killer of teenagers and hundreds of thousands are injured every year.

There has been a great deal of focus placed on young drivers over the past several years and legislative solutions such as Graduated Driver License Laws (GDL) have been enacted in many states. According to the statistics it has helped reduce the number of teen related crashes. Some GDL’s are better than others and Arizona is among the weakest in the nation.

What has also become abundantly clear is that this is not just a problem for new drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, as the number of crashes for the age group between 19 and 24 are on the rise. Most GDL’s around the country do not place any restrictions on new drivers after the age of 18. If there is one thing I have learned over the past 10 years in this business, it is that no matter how old a “new driver” is, they require the same attention in order to develop the necessary skills to navigate today’s roadways. In fact, adults that are learning to drive for the first time actually require more time and attention than a teenager.

I am participating in 2 of 10 task forces that are developing strategies for consideration for the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Plan. The 10 task forces are:

  • Restraint Usage
  • Impaired Driving
  • Cycle Traffic
  • Speeding & Aggressive Driving
  • Distracted Driving
  • Age Related
  • Inter-jurisdictional
  • Heavy Vehicles
  • Natural Interferences
  • Special Traffic Zones

I am participating on the Age Related and Distracted Driving task forces. The Age Related task force is focusing on strategies for aging and young drivers. There are 4 disciplines considered as we develop strategies. The participants involved on these task forces represent these 4 disciplines:

  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Enforcement
  • Emergency Services

In both of the task forces I participate in, education is high on the priority list and even those involved in the other 3 E’s are also involved in education, yet we continue to question whether education has any impact. Studies done years ago have indicated that driver education has not had an impact on reducing teen related crashes. Perhaps that is because in many cases we continue to teach driving the way we did 60 years ago. Do you think things have changed? The answer is yes, the vehicles we drive, the roadways we drive on, are very different and NO ONE retains information by being lectured to – that is a basic principle of adult learning. Lecture, discussion, videos are good for developing awareness, hands-on learning is the most effective way to teach a skill. Unfortunately, hands-on learning in a vehicle on the road is scary and difficult. In this state we rely, for the most part, on parents to teach their kids to drive as there are no training requirements in the state of Arizona. I will be the first to tell you, parents are a crucial part of the process, but in the majority of cases, they are NOT the best teachers and often pass on misinformation and bad habits.

DrivingMBA was created to change the way we teach novice drivers in Arizona, and maybe someday in the United States. It is why we insist on simulation as part of the process. There is no better way to teach driving skills in a safe environment. Once some skills have been developed, then we take to the “real world” but in increments and over time to continue to build skill. Defensive driving skills, however, learning how to deal with those “what if” situations, can be more effectively taught on a simulator. Students can experience a myriad of situations and learn from their mistakes.

We have learned a great deal over the past 10 years we have been in business. What we know and believe at our core is that there is a better way to prepare teenagers for the responsibility of driving and “assuming” that just because they are a teenager, they will have a collision, is ridiculous and we want to change that belief.

author avatar
Maria Wojtczak
Maria Wojtczak is Chief Operating Officer at DrivingMBA. She has extensive knowledge in teen brain development and has pioneered many techniques used to teach students at DrivingMBA. Her passion for teaching and saving teen lives has made her a leader in the driver training industry.


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