A combination of factors contributes to make teenagers poor drivers. Much of it centers on the complexity of driving and teens' tendency to speed more and use seat belts less than older drivers.
Also, the teen brain is at a particularly vulnerable point in development. Fifteen- and 16-year-olds have the logical reasoning of an adult, experts say. But their young minds' social and emotional development remains relatively immature and voraciously seeks sensual arousal, novelty and risk.
The teenage brain also is particularly vulnerable to distraction and peer pressure, and is undergoing explosive development. The front portion of the brain—which includes control of impulses, judgment and decision-making, and the coordination of multi-tasking—matures deep into the 20s, research shows.
But veteran driver's education teachers are skeptical about raising the age when a teenager can get a license.
"That's like saying we're not going to let any kid get near a pool or lake or the ocean and the drownings will go down," said Brent Johnston, a driving teacher at Hinsdale Central since 1974. "I think Illinois has gone the proper way—reward the kids who do a nice job and penalize the kids who don't. The teen driving issues are not about age and maturity as much as they are about making good choices and demonstrating exceptional behavior, whether they start that driving experience at 16, 17 or 18."
Added Ken Biggs, chairman of the driver's education…