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Teen Drivers

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the leading cause of death among 16- to 20-year-olds is motor vehicle-related crashes.

Statistics related to teen driving

Consider the following statistics from the CDC and discuss them with your teen before they get behind the wheel of a car:

  • Most teen injuries occur due to motor vehicle crashes.

  • Teens are much less likely to use seat belts than any other age group.

  • When teens drive after drinking alcohol, they are more likely than adults to be involved in a crash, even when drinking less alcohol than adults.

  • Teens also cause a higher number of deaths among nonteen drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Why are teen drivers at higher risk?

Following are the 2 main reasons why teen drivers are at higher risk for motor vehicle-related crashes that result in injury or death:

  • Lack of driving experience. Lack of experience means that teen drivers are less able to spot and respond to traffic hazards and are less in control of their vehicle.

  • Risky behavior. Teens tend to take more risks as they are influenced by their emotions, stress, and peer pressure. In addition, experimenting with alcohol and recreational drugs can impair a teen's driving ability. Also, teen drivers tend to not use their seat belts, increasing their risk of injury in a crash.

Another factor adding to the higher risk to teen drivers is driving at night. Nighttime driving is harder for anyone, especially a new driver. But teens tend to drive much more at night than during the day. This raises their risk of a fatal motor vehicle crash.

Safer teen driving

The AAP gives the following advice to pediatricians and parents, to ensure safer teen driving:

  • Emphasize to both parents and teens how important it is to drive safely. Teens need to develop driving skills with supervised practice.

  • Set a good driving example as an adult, such as obeying all traffic laws and never using drugs or alcohol when driving. Don't do activities that distract you from your driving such as eating, drinking, talking, or texting on your cellphone.

  • Put limits on teen driving privileges. Limit the number of passengers and restrict nighttime driving.

  • Give your teen consequences for irresponsible driving behavior.

  • Supervise teen drivers in vehicles.

  • Make sure the vehicle is mechanically safe.

  • Have teens sign a parent-teen driving agreement.

  • Be a part of community advocacy, such as helping coordinate alcohol-free events. This can help support parent-peer initiatives and help teens avoid negative peer pressure.

  • Support legislation aimed at reducing motor vehicle crashes among teen drivers. This includes having graduated licensing systems and stricter minimum-driving-age laws.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2020
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.