Teens drive rashly...and parents maybe at fault

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Teens drive rashly...and parents maybe at fault

With very high fatality rates when teens are behind the wheel, experts suggest a change in attitude and maybe a change in legislation.


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Fri 18 Sep 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 19 Sep 2015, 3:49 AM

Indian national and long-term resident of Dubai, Sujith Raj got his driver's licence at the age of 19. Even though it was one of the biggest highlights of his life, the now 24-year-old marketing professional suggests that the minimum age of acquiring driver's licence should be at least 21.
"The quality of roads in the UAE is very good and many youngsters can afford sports or luxury cars that have extremely powerful engines. Such cars are a bad idea with young adults," said Raj.

 Guidelines for young drivers. Wear seat belts (ALL passengers, ALL times!)
. Maintain speed limits
. Maintain safe distance with the car in front of you
. Avoid using banned substances
. Fully CONCENTRATE and don't get distracted by: Passengers, Mobile Phone , Loud Music
"The government should either raise the minimum age, or all teenage drivers must be accompanied by an adult," added Raj.
Owning a driver's licence means the world to teenagers. But with a total of 147 traffic accident deaths recorded during the first three months of this year in the UAE alone, stakeholders are asking the question: Should we trust our teens to drive?
As per date released by the Ministry of Interior in April this year, the death toll in road accidents during the corresponding period last year in the country was 186 showing a 21 per cent decline this year.
Khaleej Times spoke to experts, parents and teens themselves on the issue of 'reckless teenage drivers'.
Since mobility is a problem in the UAE, parents buy their children vehicles at a young age. Most education zones and colleges in Dubai and Sharjah are a few kilometers away from the city with limited access to the Metro. And teens drive cars to get to their colleges.
Jyothi Serene, a mother of two boys who are 20 and 24 said: "I allowed my older son to get his licence at the age of 18, but I've heard from his friends and cousins that he drives too fast. I worry about him all time, but he needs the car to get to his college on time.
In a survey conducted by Khaleejtimes.com, a staggering 82.2 per cent said teenagers drive irrationally. Several young adults themselves said that people under the age group of 18 (who drive illegally) hit the accelerator, over-take other drivers, and tail gate other cars more often than once. Only 17.8 per cent of the respondents in the poll said teenagers don't drive recklessly.
Raj said: "I have had just one bad accident, which wasn't my fault." However Raj stated that if parents avoid buying their children powerful vehicles, it could ease half the problem.
"The problem is prevalent among both young boys and girls. Even girls nowadays enjoy the adrenaline rush from driving fast," he added.
Another 21-year-old resident of Sharjah and college student at Bits Pilani Dubai campus Don Martin said: "Most of my young friends drive without a seat belt. That is extremely dangerous and youngsters must stop doing it."
Teen psychology and speed
Carmudi, the online marketplace for buying and selling cars, examined accident data and the neuroscience behind teen brain development to answer the question of whether teens can be taught to drive safely, or whether they are instinctively reckless.
The Middle East is home to some of the most dangerous roads in the world. In the UAE, a total of 147 deaths were recorded during the first three months of 2015. According to Saudi authorities, Saudi Arabia ranks at the top of the list of the world's countries regarding the number of total traffic deaths per 100,000 persons, which is about 21 deaths.
Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that the part of the human brain that weighs risks and controls impulsive behaviour isn't fully developed until about age 25. The nucleus acumens, which registers pleasure, grows from childhood, reaching the maximum extent in the teenage brain, and then begins to shrink.
This, combined with a surge of dopamine receptors, which are responsible for signalling enjoyment, makes teenagers' rewards seem much greater. To the teenage brain, the reward is greater than the risk. In addition to brain chemistry, teen-driving behaviour results in auto accidents. This eventually proves that teens are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviour.
Age of drivers
Thomas Edelman, founder of RoadSafety UAE.com said: "Young people think they are invincible. Keeping aside the legislation, young people need to be made aware of the risks of rash driving, especially through social media."
He added: "Government entities and parents need to engage the young and teach them about the pitfalls of rash driving."
Last year, an official at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai said there is an ongoing discussion to raise the minimum age of drivers in the UAE. However, a proposal was sent to the Ministry of Interior for raising the minimum age for applying for a driver's licence, but no decision has been made in this matter so far.
The age of vehicles driven by teens is also a contributing factor to the fatality rate. Today, vehicles boast of all sorts of safety features, from dynamic head restraints and advanced seat belts to the Electronic Speed Control (ESC) which works by automatically applying the brakes to individual wheels to help drivers maintain control in extreme steering maneouvers. While accidents might not decrease, the goal of future car designs should be that fatal accidents decrease.
"Not handing the car keys over is not the answer to teen road fatalities," said Mohamed Noweir, Managing Director at Carmudi. "Parents play the biggest role in keeping their teens safe behind the wheel. Apart from providing safer vehicles for teens and educating them on the awareness of cellphone and seatbelt usage, parents have to be aware of their own driving habits.
Teens pick up small driving habits based on how their parents drive. Does dad wear his seatbelt? Is mum talking on her cellphone? These small habits can actually have a major impact," added Mohamed Noweir.

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