Facts About Teen Driving Every Parent Should Know

Being behind the wheel is a big responsibility. But for teens, it’s more than that. It’s the feeling of freedom and the level of independence it gives that is making them want to finally grab the keys and hop in the car. Little do they know, driving a vehicle can be the most dangerous thing there is.

The inexperience of teen drivers and their lack of knowledge on traffic rules and how to be responsible behind the wheel have led to a number of undesirable outcomes. One of them is the high number of fatal vehicular accidents. Recent statistics have it that car crashes are the number one reason for the death of teens between ages 15 and 20.

This statistic should alarm you enough. But this isn’t the only thing to know about teen driving. Here are other facts and statistics on teen driving every parent should know.

Teen Driving: Facts and Statistics

Estimates are that half of teen drivers will get involved in car crashes before graduating from high school. Here are the figures:

Fatalities

  • In 2017, 2,526 teens were killed in crashes in the United States.
  • In 2018, 2,476 teenagers aged 13-19 died in vehicular accidents, 10 percent fewer than that in 2017.
  • About 2 of every 3 teens killed in motor vehicle accidents were males.
  • The fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16- to 19-year-olds is three times the rate for drivers ages 20 and above.

Crashes

  • 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than any other age.
  • 15- to 20-year-old drivers without driver education are responsible for 91% of crashes involving teenagers.
  • In 2018, 20% of 11th graders report being in a crash as a driver.
  • In the same year, 25% of 9th graders report being in a crash as a passenger to a fellow teen driver in the last year.
  • 9% of teenage motor vehicle accidents involved distracted driving.
  • When a teen driver has an additional passenger with them, the risk of them getting into a crash doubles. If two or more passengers are present, the odds are five times as likely.
  • In the United States, 1 in 4 crash fatalities involves someone of ages 16 to 24—about twice as high as other age groups.

Distractions

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2018 alone, distracted driving has claimed 2,841 lives. Among those killed, 1,730 were drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and 77 bicyclists.
  • In 2020, The Zebra conducted a survey among 2,000 Americans and found that 56.7% of them admit to eating or drinking while driving.
  • The same survey found that texting, eating, and drinking are not the only thing that distract them, but so do answering emails, video-chatting, and taking photos and videos.
  • 56% of teens say they talk on the phone while driving.
  • 13% of teens admit to texting while driving.
  • 12% of distracted drivers involved in accidents that resulted in death were 15- to 19-year-old teen drivers.
  • Talking on the phone while driving increases the likelihood of an accident by half.
  • Majority of distracted drivers are drivers below the age of 20.
  • 34% of teens aged 16 to 17 admit to sending and responding to text messages while driving.

Seat belt use

According to NHTSA, teens buckle up less likely than adults do. This leads to even more accidents involving teen drivers.

  • In 2009, 56% of teens aged 16 to 20 who got involved in car crashes were unbuckled.
  • According to CDC, teens, more than any age group, have the lowest rate of seat belt use.
  • In 2013, over half of teens of ages 15 to 19 who were killed in motor vehicle accidents weren’t wearing a seat belt.
  • In 2017, 5.9% of teen passengers admitted to never or rarely wearing a seat belt as passengers.
  • Teens with parents who monitor their driving are twice as likely to wear seat belts than those whose parents are less involved.

Alcohol use

  • Any amount of alcohol in their bloodstream increases the risk of crashes among teens that that of older adults.
  • Drinking when you are under the age of 21 is illegal in the United States, and so is drinking while driving among teens. But despite this under-21 law on alcohol use, 15% of drivers aged 16-20 who were involved in a car accident had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
  • 20% of male drivers aged 15 to 20 who were involved in fatal car crashes admitted to drinking while driving. 

Preventing Teenage Car Accidents: Tips for Parents

Now that we’ve laid down the facts, let us discuss how parents can help their kid prevent getting into an accident. Here are some tips:

  1. Enroll them in a professional driving school.

Parents are a child’s best teacher, they say. But when it comes to driving, even though you have years and years of experience, there is nothing that can do the teaching better than an excellent driving school. The driving school can teach your kid not just traffic rules but also about the risks of driving.  

  1. Set a good example.

A 2012 study conducted by Liberty Mutual found that 91% of parents have talked on the phone while driving, while 59% have sent a text. An alarming 20% admitted to driving while under the influence, while 49% reported they drove without wearing a seat belt, and 88% drove over the speed limit. Do not be part of this alarming statistic and set a good example for your teen driver. When they’re in the passenger seat, never do the things you would not want them to do when they’re behind the wheels. Do not text, do not answer calls, do not drive while drunk, and most importantly, remind them to always wear their seat belt.

  1. Set restrictions on night driving and passenger count.

Most crashes happen at night, so it is only right that you discuss with your teenager the dangers of nighttime driving. While teenagers only drive 15% of their miles after dark, 40% of fatal crashes happen during this time period. So it is highly advisable that you have them return the key to you before 9:00 p.m. Some states, particularly Michigan, have even made it illegal for teenagers to drive between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. unless they are driving to and from work or are accompanied by a guardian. 

Set limits on passenger count as well. As mentioned, the higher the passenger count in a car is, the higher the risk of them getting into some kind of vehicular accident. One teenage passenger can have a 48% crash risk. This increases to 258% with two more passengers and 307% with three or more. 

  1. Make it mandatory to wear seat belts.

As mentioned, it is important that parents remind their kid to always wear their seat belt. According to the statistics listed above, more than half of teens who were involved in car accidents were not wearing their seat belt. Always tell your teen driver that seat belts are the most effective preventive measure against getting hurt while in a car. The NHTSA reported that the risk of car injuries can be reduced by half of the driver and all passengers in the car are wearing their seat belt.

  1. Do not let them drive while under the influence of alcohol.

This is a no-brainer. Never ever let your teen driver get in the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. It does not matter how much they’ve drunk. The moment a drop of alcohol is injected into their bloodstream, you should warn them never to go behind the wheels. Do not forget to stress the dangers of drunk driving. If possible, sit down with them to talk about this.

  1. Get them a safe vehicle.

If you are getting your teenager a car, look for one that has high safety ratings. According to Geico, it is better to avoid small cars, trucks, and SUVs. Avoid sporty-type vehicles too, as these will only encourage your teen to test its performance. It pays to check federal statistics and consumer report literature to know the safety rating of a car or truck.

  1. Invest in a GPS tracker.

As a parent, you can seek the help of technology to keep your children safe while on the road. Good thing there are GPS trackers. These tiny, lightweight devices can help you track the whereabouts of your kid in real time. They also come with an SOS button that your teen driver can press should they find themselves in an emergency situation. They also come in handy if you want to check your kid’s driving behavior, as they can collect data like miles driven, engine start-up and shut-down times, and so much more. You can also set geo-fences with these trackers and receive alerts the very second your teen goes beyond the area you deem safe. 

Being a parent to a teen driver isn’t easy. If anything, letting them drive is a shared responsibility between you and your kid. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent them from being part of the alarming numbers on teenage driving.