Ever wonder why your kid’s car insurance rates go down at age 25? It all has to do with your teen’s brain development. I don’t think insurance companies based their rates on brain development–it was more like they knew that something in the decision-making ability of the teenage brain didn’t work that well until around the age of 25. Now there is brain research that tells us why.
Our brains develop from the back to the front. That means the last part of the human brain to develop is what is called the prefrontal cortex. The cortex is what covers the interior parts of the brain. It is grey in color which is why the brain is called our “grey matter.” The part of the cortex that is just behind the forehead is the prefrontal cortex and it is also called the executive part of our brain.
It handles our decision making, our ability to assess risk, and the ability to understand in advance the consequences of our decisions. It also helps us handle multiple tasks that divide our attention, helps us control our impulses, and manage complex social situations.
Here’s what you as a parent may have already experienced. According to AAA, teens are 50% more likely to crash a vehicle during the first month of their driving than a year later. The crash rate per mile driven is nearly four times higher for teens than for adults. In addition, because they don’t fully multitask, they are more likely to miss a red light or stop sign as they talk with their passengers, or as they text a friend.
I know in California, my grandkids were not allowed to drive with any friends as passengers for the first year. The program is called the graduated driver licensing (GDL) process. It’s different in every state, but its intent is to allow teens to gain experience without being distracted.
What’s a parent to do?
1. Recognize that the continued development of their teen’s brain is a reality. It’s not an excuse, it’s just there. So don’t be afraid to carefully assess your teen’s readiness to drive.
2. Know the restrictions your state places on teen driving. You can find this at http://teendriving.aaa.com/
3. Use your own teachable moments. When you are driving with your teen, take the time to explain what you’re doing and why. This helps you pay attention to what you are modeling to them as your drive.
It’s usually a relief when your teen starts to drive in that you have some freedom back. But you also worry. Now you know why–it’s their brain.
Question: What was it like when you first started driving? Any accidents? Tickets? I would love to hear your comments.