It is a well-known fact that teen drivers are more likely to have automobile accidents as compared to older drivers. The most common theory for this is that friends and technology are more likely to distract teen drivers.

However, recent research suggests that the reality may be more complex than this. According to Forbes Magazine, research suggests that car crashes are more frequent for teens with slower working memory development.

What is working memory? 

In most humans, working memory begins to develop during the adolescent years and continues into the twenties. Working memory guides many aspects of driving a car. It is what handles varied and time sensitive tasks simultaneously.

For example, in order to operate a vehicle safely the driver must be able to scan the road for irregularities, continually focus on the constantly-changing environment surrounding the car, while adjusting for speed and other distractions. Even if a teen is not talking with a friend or using a cell phone, many have not developed their working memory to the same capacity as adult drivers.

How can this help keep teens safe? 

Research on working memory is still in its preliminary stages. However, if technology can help identify which teens have less-developed working memory, it is easier to pinpoint those individuals for different kinds of training. It is also possible to mandate different driving restrictions for teens who have less-developed working memory.

So, instead of all teens being eligible for permits at 14, these scans could determine which teens have developed enough working memory for the permit and which ones are better off waiting a bit longer.