The Brake Road Safety Charity published an article regarding the high-risk probabilities faced by adolescent new drivers. According to the article, drivers in the U.K between the ages of sixteen and nineteen are a third more likely to suffer a fatal car-accident, and one-in-four crash within two years of qualifying for their driver’s license. No doubt, a combination of youthful exuberance, inexperience and above all – a cognitively immature and under-developed brain. You might compare the teenage brain to a hyper-sports car but with funky steering and no brakes.
“That’s putting it bluntly!” Yes, but most parents of adolescent children will agree, ‘that something is going on in the head of their teenage son or daughter,’ but they don’t know what…and neither does the teenager. There are six regions of the brain critical to an adolescent’s development, which can be grouped into two primary areas of the human brain: the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic system is the teenager brain’s accelerator-pedal and the prefrontal-cortex are the brakes. Otherwise in some scientific circles: the lizard brain and the wizard brain. The area of the brain most crucial to help parents understand the adolescent brain is the lizard brain or limbic system: a reactionary matrix responsible for our instinctual fight-or-flight response, anger, fear, aggression and the pursuit of pleasure or thrill seeking…ironically this primordial region of the teenager’s brain is rapidly developing…contributing to young inexperienced driver’s over-confident exhibitionism of reckless driving behaviour: neglecting to fasten their safety-belt, driving-under-the-influence, giving into peer-pressure, excessive speeding, texting-and-driving, tail-gating, racing and often episodes of road-rage. Thus, teen drivers lack both the insight and foresight to determine the consequences of their actions.
Now…what about the prefrontal-cortex? The rational, emotional-regulating, responsible, peace-keeping, problem solving wizard brain? Well, there lies the paradox and somewhat bad news: you are going to have wait until your teenager is twenty-five years old until the prefrontal-cortex/frontal-lobe is fully developed. But until then you can always lend them your P.F.C. the earlier your teen’ learns both the skills and risks of driving – the better. At the age of 15/9-months you can apply for a provisional license, but only at the age of 17, can you book both your theory and practical driving exam. There are junior driver experience programs that cater for ages from as young as 5 years-old. Enrolling your pre-adolescent/adolescent son or daughter exposes them to a more comprehensive in-depth driver training; thereby developing their foresight of the consequences of reckless driving: failing to apply their safety-belt, standing up to peer pressure, the dangers of exceeding the speed-limit – to avoid in-car distractions, focus, and develop an overall spatial-awareness of their surroundings. Thereby, the wizard brain becomes wiser, the lizard brain takes more of a back-seat, and mom and dad sleep better at night.
Written by Dean Joseph