Should driving age start at 18 in UAE?

Owning a driver's licence means the world to teenagers. But, with a staggering 7,000 deaths annually, and over 39,000 injuries per year in Saudi Arabia alone, concerned parents are asking the question: Should we trust our teens to drive?

Here is some accident data and the neuroscience behind teen brain development to answer the question of whether teens can be taught to drive safely, or are they instinctively reckless?

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 people,  which is about 21 deaths.

When it comes to reckless driving and teenagers, it isn’t a case of not knowing any better.

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 accumbens, which registers pleasure, grows from childhood, reaching the maximum extent in 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 contributes to auto accidents. Teens are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviour. This includes checking their mobile phones more often as they become more comfortable with driving.

After sixteen months of driving, teens are involved in distracting behaviour twice as often as adults. Texting or making calls increases the risk of crashing threefold.

The age of vehicles driven by teens is also a contributing factor to the fatality rate. According to a government study, nearly half of drivers aged between 15 and 17 who died in car crashes from 2008 to 2012 in the United States had cars that were at least 11 years old.

The positive news is that automakers are increasingly building safer cars. Today, vehicles boast all sorts of safety features, from dynamic head restraints and advanced seat belts to the important electronic speed control (ESC).

Electronic speed control works by automatically applying the brakes to individual wheels in order to help drivers maintain control in extreme steering maneuvers. While accidents might not decrease, the goal of future car designs is that fatal accidents will.

“Not handing the car keys over is not the answer to teen road fatalities. Parents play the biggest role in keeping their teens safe behind the wheel. Aside from providing safer vehicles for teens and educating them on the awareness of mobile phone 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 mom talking on her phone? These small habits can actually have a major impact,” says Mohamed Noweir, Managing Director at Carmudi.

This information has been provided by Carmudi, an online marketplace for buying and selling cars

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