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Study: New drivers really don't know how to drive

Posted at 4:06 PM, Jun 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-15 16:21:44-04

Just because the state gives someone a license, doesn’t mean they know how to drive when it counts.

Teens put to the test in hazardous road conditions crashed 40 percent more often compared to an experienced driver, according to new study from the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The novice drivers knew how to drive in everyday situations. They even used turn signals. But that all fell apart when they failed to anticipate and respond to danger.

"When we put new drivers on the road without ensuring that they have the necessary skills to drive safely, why are we surprised when they crash? We shouldn't be," said Flaura K. Winston, who led the study.

Motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of death in teenagers, with 2,650 killed in 2011 and 292,000 injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to lack of skill, teens are more likely to be distracted behind the wheel.

U.S. Teenage Motor Vehicle Deaths By Year - Male vs. Female | Credio

Teen auto deaths are down 70 percent since their peak in 1978. But they’re still three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than older drivers.

The most common crashes were during a left turn, rear ends and running off the road. That can be due to not braking enough during an emergency stop, following too closely or not looking around enough during the left turn.

“Some haven't developed the skills they need to navigate complex driving situations and are crashing due to error,” Winston said, in a statement.

Diagnosing teen driving can lead to improved training to make sure drivers are ready for what the road throws at them. About half of the teens passed the gauntlet of 22 simulated tests — an encouraging sign.

"We want to ensure that all teens have that ability," Winston said.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.