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Think women are lousy drivers? Watch out for teen girls

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

Cell phones not the only distraction

According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen girls are twice as likely to use electronic devices while driving. When teens have friends in the car, there is a marked increase in distractions and unsafe driving.

Keep reading for more findings from this study, and what you can do to help your teen drive more safely.

Every 16-year-old dreams of the day they pass their behind-the-wheel test and are awarded their first driver’s license. However, the reality of teens driving is anything but a dream. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, one in three teen deaths in the U.S. is attributed to motor vehicle accidents. Teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are more likely to be involved in such accidents than people in any other age group.

Distracted driving

Use of electronic devices while driving is a huge distraction for teens — and girls are twice as likely to use them. Distractions aren’t all electronic, however. Eating or drinking, adjusting controls, reaching around in the car for items, talking to friends and personal grooming are just as distracting to the driver. The AAA Foundation study found that girls were 50 percent more likely to reach for an object and nearly 25 percent more likely to be eating or drinking. The more friends your teen has in the car, the more distracted she is while driving.

Read about what to teach kids about cell phone safety >>

Brain still developing

The part of the brain that controls emotion, risk-taking and decision-making is the frontal lobe — which is not fully mature until around the age of 25. This contributes to the fact that teens are more impulsive drivers, more easily distracted while driving and often make poor decisions in emergency situations. They may be less likely to assess the situation on the road ahead of them, and less adept at analyzing road hazards.

Why are girls worse?

Girls and women have always been statistically better drivers, and enjoyed lower car insurance rates as a result. Now the gender gap is narrowing. More girls classify themselves as aggressive drivers and are admitting they are more likely to speed than ever before. Girls are more likely to be distracted by cell phone calls, texting and other distractions while driving. Since girls tend to be more connected to their friends, their vehicle becomes a social event on wheels.

Should you track them or trust them? >>

Help them drive safe

Talk to your teen about safe driving often — not just when she gets her driver’s license. Make the effort to be a passenger in her car often, so you can see first-hand how she is driving and making judgments on the road. Talk to your teen about limiting distractions in the car both when she is driving and when she is a passenger. Implementing a “no food” and “no music” policy in your vehicles — even just for the first year — may severely cut down on the likelihood of accidents.

If your state doesn’t have a graduated license program, consider introducing driving to your teen gradually.

Know

Remember that your teen is watching you drive, too. To raise a competent and safe driver, you need to model the same behavior.

More about teen behavior

Understanding your teen's behavior
6 Ways to tame teen behavior
Does your teen have an eating disorder?

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