Study: Teens safer drivers than people in their 20s

LOS ANGELES — Who are the worst drivers on the roads? If you think it’s teens, think again. A recent study finds that the youngest segment of motorist tend to demonstrate safer driving habits than their older counterparts.

Researchers from UCLA sought to relate four common factors among young motorists to driver safety and ability on the road. The four factors the research team tested for were age, gender, sports participation, and video game experience. They found that age mattered when it came to driving ability, and that people who played sports were typically the best drivers.

For the study, the research team hired instructors from a Los Angeles driving school to test study participants, rating each driver on a scale of one to four. The team recruited 100 inexperienced drivers (split evenly by gender) with an average age of 18. Participants took a two-hour driving course, focusing on common driving maneuvers and car control, then took a driving test on the streets of Los Angeles, a city widely viewed as having the worst traffic in the world.

The research team wanted to analyze the driving scores according to age and gender in particular because of common stereotypes that dictate women and young people are inept drivers.

The results were not what the team was expecting. Age played a role in driving ability, but instead of younger drivers performing worse, teens actually out-performed their older counterparts almost across the board. The trend was particularly notable for male drivers.

“Based on the results of the current study, we hypothesize that the relatively high accident rate of younger drivers (especially male drivers) is most likely due to inattention to safety considerations rather than lack of technical driving ability,” the authors write.

Even though female drivers reported lower confidence in their driving skills than male drivers, gender had almost no effect on driver performance.

A history of participation in organized sports was found to have a strong link to better driving performance for both men and women. Both males and females who played sports scored much higher than those who didn’t. Previous research shows that team sports participation improves spatial perception.

Video game experience, despite previous research showing playing video games improves spatial cognition, appeared to have no effect on driving ability.

The full study was published Jan. 24, 2018 in an online edition of the journal PLOS One.

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