In May of 2015, in Stony Creek Metropark, southeast Michigan, three teenage boys were killed in a “single motor vehicle” accident as a result of excessive speeding. (Stafford) The collision involved five boys between the ages of 17 and 18, who were driving at a “very high rate of speed.” (Stafford) This example is just one of numerous accidents that occur within this age group.
The ages of those involved in this crash are no coincidence. In fact, 40 percent more men than women, ages 16 to 19, are involved in fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles. (Benincasa) However, the question as to why boys seem to have a higher inclination to exceed the speed limit remains unsolved. Whether it be their desire to show off a fast, high-performance vehicle or the feeling of invincibility that often characterizes youth, some young men constantly find themselves getting pulled over for driving recklessly. Higher propensity for this behavior amongst boys aged 16 to 19 stems from the very nature of their neurology and becomes intensified in combination with various social pressures. Consequently, young men within this age range are also more likely than drivers of any other demographic to suffer from injury or death as a result of a car accident. Nevertheless, the motives that drive these young men to act so recklessly still remain in question.
The prefrontal cortex, which remains underdeveloped throughout young adulthood, controls judgment, regulates impulses, and is largely responsible for a higher proclivity toward risk-taking in boys ages 16 to 19. (Edmonds) Teenage boys’ decisions resulting from this lack of development manifest themselves in many ways, one of which is speeding. Increased speed, then, directly results in a decreased ability to detect and respond to hazards. (Leyla Driving School) This, in turn, doubles the risk of injury and car accidents, as it becomes increasingly difficult for one to be aware of his surroundings if he is driving too quickly. Unsurprisingly, “11,900 male drivers died in U.S. traffic accidents in 2009, compared with just under 4,900 women drivers.” (Edgerton) Statistically, boys are more likely to get arrested for DUI’s, have more accidents, engage in reckless driving, and neglect to wear their seatbelt. (Cost of Car Insurance) Where we tend to think of women as being emotional, in this case teenage boys are; and they display it through their actions with reckless driving. Maybe having their dream car does not completely mask their insecurities in the ways that they would like. Rather than simply parking their car and moving on, they use the abilities of the car to compensate for such insecurities in attempt to escape their realities and fears.
Boys at a young age tend to make quicker and fewer thoughtful decisions due to the lack of maturity in their brain and body. Hence, when they are trying to prove their confidence to others, the consequences seem irrelevant. They are more likely to act on peer pressure, their insecurities, and their underlying need to prove their masculinity. This is due to the prefrontal cortex not reaching its full potential until age 25. Furthermore, lack of development in the prefrontal cortex causes decreased impulse control, inadequate foresight, and poor decision-making. (Edmonds) This is why drivers under 18 are more likely to go to juvenile hall rather than prison, because the decisions made at their age can not always be proven to be made with sound judgement. Their lack of life experience allows them to believe that they are invincible due to their poor decisions having yet to be met with real consequences.
Poor judgment can also be a result of having an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. Teenage boys are predisposed to care more about what their friends might think or how they might react in response to their actions. In reality, “friends, peers and social activities take precedence. Kids this age are more internally focused. They are going through, or have just finished, the hormonal turmoil of puberty and are beginning to be primarily concerned about relationships and connections with peers.” (Pitman) Teenagers, in general, do not exactly understand who they are as a person, so they look to their peers for the approval that their actions and what they do is widely accepted. This could be due to feelings of insecurity with their friends and feeling the need to prove their importance. For example, if a teenage boy receives a brand new car from his parents, he will most likely try to speed and show it off in order to be viewed as someone who deserves to be a part of the in-crowd. However, this arguably develops into a situation where these boys make unsound decisions.
Teenage boys, while having gone through puberty years, still have yet to experience all aspects of developing into maturity. Therefore, they do not feel as strong and confident as they wish to feel. For example, in my high school, as in most, there were different groups of students that defined themselves through one specific attribute. There were the girls with style, the boys who played basketball and well, the boys who drove fancy cars. Yet, it was not enough for these groups to simply just have something; they had to show it off. They needed the acceptance and validation from others in order to feel, not superior, but acknowledged. Driving a car so fast to the point where no one can see who's driving does not necessarily provide the speeder with friends, but brings into question, who is driving that car? It is the recognition of the driver’s existence and risk taking that gives him the feeling of purpose. Nonetheless, their lack of foresight in the process denies them the ability to understand the ramifications of showing off their car.
When teenage boys fall under the influence of those with the same cognitive deficiencies, the number and severity of poor decisions seems to be exacerbated. Group think amongst young adults can have a large influence over teenagers, whose brains are not yet developed enough to maturely evaluate the impacts or to stand separate from the “in crowd” and not be ashamed or insecure. They are constantly trying to impress their friends and show off to be accepted. This becomes a problem because with the side affects of their underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, they do not fully understand that speeding could lead to injury, jail time, or even death. Furthering the pressure to act in this manner could end in an unwanted result. This mindset while driving can be a deadly combination.
Teenage boys are more inclined than the general population to speed and make other quick, rash decisions. Due to their underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex, they unwittingly have an increased lack of impulse control and foresight, often resulting in the inability to make smart and sound decisions. Compounding the negative behavioral impacts of their pre-disposed immature brains is the lack of life experience necessary to fully grasp ones own mortality. Boys aged 16 to 19 are also largely susceptible to insecurities in relation to gender identity and expression, further intensifying their inclination toward speeding. While reckless driving amongst young men is often treated as another consequence of peer pressure and a naïve sense of youthful invincibility, there are hidden reasons revealed that prove to be the underlying truth as to why teenage boys speed.