Teen drivers are often at risk from the moment they clinch their driver’s license: with less experience on the road and a greater willingness to drive distracted, they could easily end up in a serious wreck.

The development of the teen’s brain, however, has an important impact on crash likelihood, too. Younger drivers who have brain function that’s behind the average among their peers are more likely to have already been in a vehicle accident, according to one study.

Adolescents are most likely to suffer injuries or be killed in vehicle accidents across the world and in the U.S., getting the attention of public health experts.

It’s still the case that lack of driving experience plays a role in a teen’s chances of being hurt in a wreck, but the brain development helps explain what sets kids apart. Over seven years, one research team followed a group of kids. The children were between the ages of 11 and 13 when they started the study, and every few years the researchers asked about traits that had been associated with a higher crash risk, including working memory.

About three in 10 of the participants reported at least one vehicle accident during that time. The researchers discovered that it wasn’t the working memory capacity of the teen at the start of the project, but rather the working memory for that teen that developed during the study. Some teens developed more quickly than others, and those who lagged behind were more likely to have reported a car accident as a teenager.

Whether you’re the parent of a teen or worried about your own chances of being hit by a distracted or inexperienced teen driver, it’s important to know the risks and to exercise caution and safety on the road every time you drive. If you’ve already been seriously hurt and need to discuss your next steps to recover compensation, schedule a time to meet with a San Francisco teen driver accident lawyer today.

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