A study involving young drivers in Kansas indicates gender is a significant variable that impacts the type, severity and timing of car crashes. Boys crash on weekends and after sunset. Girls are more likely to hit pedestrians and crash in intersections, among other findings by researchers at Kansas State University.
Sunanda Dissanayake, a civil engineering instructor, and doctoral student Niranga Amarasingha looked at motor vehicle crashes involving drivers ages 16 to 24 in Kansas over a five-year period to see what patterns could be discerned. They used a state transportation database that had more than 150 variables and found gender differences are significant.
They told Science World Report the findings could potentially be used to help those teaching driver education courses educate their youthful charges and improve their future safety.
The study was published in the Journal of Safety Research. According to Kansas State background material, it's part of a much larger project by the Kansas Department of Education to improve highway safety for young drivers.
"Age is one of the most important factors of highway safety, and crash data shows that young drivers and older drivers are involved in more crashes than any other age group," Dissanayake said in a written statement from Kansas State. "For young drivers, this is especially concerning because people in this age group have their whole lives ahead of them and these crashes are frequently severe or fatal."
According to a recent article in the Journal of Adolescent Health, "Motor vehicle crashes rank as the leading cause of teen deaths and in 2008, 16 percent of all distraction-related fatal automobile crashes involved drivers under 20 years of age. These grim statistics, coupled with an increasing nationwide awareness of the dangers of distracted driving for all ages, prompted the publication of an important supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health that explores the causes of distracted driving and offers practical recommendations to reduce the incidence of distracted driving among teens."
Among the findings:
• Young females use seat belts far more than young males.
• But young females were 28 percent more likely to drive on a restricted license than young males.
• Males crashed more often on weekends; females during the week.
• The females were less likely to have off-road crashes.
"There are often different risk factors for young male and young female drivers because their behavior and attitude are generally different," Dissanayake said in the statement. "This may help explain why one gender is more likely to be involved in a certain type of crash. For example, young males may have more off-road crashes because this crash type is more frequently involved with speeding on rural roads — a driving habit exhibited more by young males than young females."
Using the study's findings to improve the safety of those who share the road with young drivers will take some work, according to an editorial in the Topeka Capital-Journal: "That will require a concentrated effort to get the information to those who teach young people to drive and encourage them to reinforce the study’s findings at every opportunity. The Kansas Department of Transportation will have a role in that effort as the study is part of a larger KDOT study on improving highway safety for young drivers."
It concluded that "it’s unlikely teenagers are going to be reading the Journal of Safety Research, but educating young people about their weaknesses and tendencies as drivers will help everyone. Older drivers and pedestrians can’t simply avoid intersections during the weekdays or stay off the roadways on weekends and after dark."
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