Montreal car accidents linked to underdeveloped brains among teenagers
Experts say young drivers will readily take more risks behind the wheel than adults, which could demystify why youth are involved in serious accidents in Quebec.
“Speed is usually a cause element in most road accidents involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 24”, said Mario Vaillancourt, who is a spokesperson for the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ).
“Between 2012 and 2016, speed was involved in 58 percent of accidents with fatalities involving young drivers,” Vaillancourt said. “It’s one of the main factors.”
These numbers are beginning to raise awareness after a 15-year-old youth lost control of a car near Joliette, and crashed into a tree on Monday, the 9th of October. Unfortunately, two passengers, aged 14 and 17, were killed in the crash.
A 13-year-old and a 16-year-old are in critical condition in the hospital, while the driver of the car miraculously sustained only minor injuries.
Eloise Cossette of the Sûreté du Québec claims that excessive speed was a contributing factor resulting in this fatal accident.
She said that “Police are conducting a mechanical inspection on the vehicle and have not confirmed how fast it was going before it crashed”.
Alarming number of Young drivers involved in accidents
There has been a steady decline of young drivers who have died in road accidents every year since 2011. In 2016, 48 young drivers were killed, compared to 55 young drivers the year before.
The point of concern however remains that despite the decrease, young drivers are still over-represented in serious road accidents in Quebec.
On average, 101 young drivers were directly or indirectly involved in road accidents causing deaths every year between 2011 and 2015.
“One dead is always one too many,” Vaillancourt said.
Teens brains still in developing stage
Cecilia Flores, a McGill psychiatry professor who studies teenage brains has suggested that the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and risk-taking, continues to develop into early adulthood. And this could to large extents explain why teenagers may make more impulsive choices than adults.
“For the brain to function at an adult level, all the connections have to be formed,” she said.
Vaillancourt said the SAAQ has launched an awareness campaign targeting young drivers, including one warning them against the risks specifically involved with texting and driving.
He said passengers are required tospeak up when they notice a driver acting dangerously behind the wheel. And there is a responsibility for everyone as he suggests that Parents should also talk to their children about safe practices and set good examples.
Staff at École de La Rive, the high school which most of the teens involved in the Joliette accident attended, met on the 10th of October 2017 to discuss how to support other students coming back to class the following day.
“It’s a tragedy that touches everyone here,” said Diane Fortin, a spokesperson for the Commission scolaire des Samares in Quebec’s Lanaudière region.