Young drivers tend to have excellent vision and quick reflexes, yet they’re involved in many more fatal accidents per mile than older drivers. (One study found a threefold higher risk.) Many explanations have been put forward: Teenagers tend to have cheaper, smaller cars, for example, and they drive more often at night.
They are also new to the road. Fatigue could be another factor, since teens are thought to need more sleep than adults. But experts suggest that social pressure combined with an adolescent propensity for risk-taking may also be to blame. Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg has found that kids playing a simulated game are more likely to drive fast and run yellow lights when they’re around friends.
Neuroscientists point out that the brain’s prefrontal cortex is pruned and reshaped during adolescence, which may have something to do with the decisions teens make behind the wheel. Unfortunately, MRI scans can’t tell us anything specific about driver safety.