Research has shown that newly licensed teens often fail to anticipate where and when to expect traffic hazards and driving hazards to pop up. Therefore, they do not do a good job of moderating speed and position of their vehicle to avoid them. Traffic hazard and driving hazard statistics show that failure to scan for hazards is one of three critical errors inexperienced teen drivers make that leads them to crash. The others have to do with not moderating speed for conditions and being distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle.
Watch this video with your teen about hazard detection:
Traffic hazards and driving hazards can include cars in an adjacent lane that may pull out suddenly, pedestrians partially hidden from view until stepping into a crosswalk, another vehicle that rolls through a stop sign or runs a red light, or even a pothole. Experienced drivers have learned to constantly scan the environment and expect the unexpected.
Parents often mistake these driving skill deficits as teens not "paying attention." Actually, teens need to be taught essential skills that adults take for granted. Teens need extra time to master "higher order" skills, including scanning, to manage traffic hazards and driving hazards.
Watch this video with your teen about scanning and hazard detection:
The driver training and research community has been developing and testing programs to help new drivers acquire these skills sooner, before getting licensed, to reduce the risk of crashing. Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have developed and tested the TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide to help parents and their new drivers make the most of the learner’s permit period of licensure.
Among crashes attributed to a critical teen driver error, 21 percent were due to lack of scanning that is needed to detect and respond to hazards.
More Traffic and Driving Hazards Statistics
- On average, a pedestrian was killed every 81 minutes and injured every 10 minutes in traffic crashes in 2020.
- In 2020, 16% of children age 14 and younger killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
- A driver follows a three-second sequence to scan and react to a potential hazard: The driver has one second to scan for a hazard and 2 seconds to detect and recognize it and then decide how to respond in order to avoid or lessen the severity of a crash.
- Although current Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws help reduce teen accident rates by limiting the number of peer passengers and banning in-car cell phone use, many crashes will still occur due to the inability of teen drivers to detect and respond to a hazard in time.
- Because their search skills are underdeveloped, new drivers often detect a hazard later than experienced drivers, increasing their crash risk.
- Even in young adults with an average four years of driving experience, mind wandering while driving is associated with a tendency to scan the environment more narrowly.