Statistics show that teen drivers are responsible for a large portion of the auto accidents, including fatal accidents, occurring throughout the country. Some of these accidents can be attributed to being distracted while driving or lack of experience.
Center for Disease Control
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that, in 2010, injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident were responsible for the deaths of seven teens ages 16 to 19 every day. Additionally, it reports that during that same year, 2,700 teens ages 16-19 were killed and approximately 282,000 treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained in motor vehicles.
Increased Odds for Fatal Accidents
It also states that, for every mile driven, teenagers are three times more likely to be involved in fatal auto accident than adult drivers age 20 and older. Male teenage drivers have almost twice as large a death rate than teenage female drivers. Male teenage drivers ages 15-24 account for 30% of the total cost of motor vehicle injuries in the nation per year, while female teenage drivers of the same age account for 28%.
The CDC reports that teenagers are at an increased risk for having an auto accident if:
- There are other teenagers in the car
- They are male
- They were driving between 3 PM and midnight
- They had only recently received their license
Other risk factors include teenagers' inability to respond to hazardous situations as appropriate, their likelihood of engaging in dangerous driving behavior, and their low rate of seat belt use.
California Department of Motor Vehicles
The California Department of Motor Vehicles reports that teenage men and women between 16 and 19 have the "highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates of any other age group." According to the Department, factors that make teenagers such poor drivers include:
- Not wearing seat belts
- Lack of driving skill
- An increased likelihood of taking risks
- Poor hazard detection
Driving at an unsafe speed is the cause for about 35% of teen accidents.
Additional Risk Factors
Carrying passengers makes it 3.6 times more likely that a teenager will be involved in an accident, the Department states. The higher the number of passengers, the more that likelihood increases. Driving at night is another risk factor, with teenage drivers being three times as likely to be involved in an accident when driving after 9 PM.
The Department also reports that alcohol impacts a teenage driver's chances of being involved in an accident. Teenage drivers have a much higher risk of being involved in serious crashes as adult drivers, even when both groups have equal amounts of alcohol in their system.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
This government agency reports that teens are at a much greater risk of being involved in an alcohol-related accident than other drivers. In 2006, 31% of drivers ages 15-20 involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.
The agency also reports that 16 and 17 year old drivers are more often involved in fatal crashes due to their immaturity and inexperience. Additionally, seat belt use among teenagers was the lowest among all groups, with only 80% wearing a vehicle's safety restraint.
The NHTSA also provides statistics regarding distracted driving, which refers to driving while engaged in some other activity. According to the NHTSA, in 2011, over 3,000 people were killed in auto accidents that could be attributed to a driver being distracted. Overall, 11% of drivers under age 20 involved in a crash reported being distracted and 21% of drivers ages 15-19 involved in fatal crashes reported being distracted by cell phone use.
New York Department of Health
This Department reports that motor vehicle crashes are responsible for the deaths of about 73 teens age 15-19 per year. It reports that most teenage drivers are involved in accidents due to speeding, failing to yield to other drivers, following other vehicles too closely, or being distracted.
Distraction.gov is a Federal Government website dedicated to informing adults and teenagers about the dangers of operating a vehicle while engaging in another activity. Included in its examples of distraction are:
- Talking to passengers
- Watching a video
- Adjusting the radio
- Reading maps while driving
The website reports that one-quarter of teens respond to a text every time they drive and that 20% of teens admitted to having lengthy text conversations while driving.
Governors Highway Safety Association
A 2011 report created for the Governors Highway Safety Administration provides information derived from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), created by the NHTSA. This reports states that deaths of 16 year olds from vehicle accidents increased 16%, from 80 to 93 deaths, and deaths of 17 year olds 7%, from 110 to 118 deaths, between 2010 and 2011.
In the first six months of 2011, 23 states had an increase in the number of teenage driver fatalities. During this same time, Texas had the highest number of deaths of 16 and 17 year old drivers, followed by North Carolina and Florida.
Reducing the Amount of Teen Accidents
According to the CDC, programs designed to provide graduated drivers licensing (in which drivers are granted different levels of driving privileges prior to obtaining full privileges) reduce fatal injury accidents caused by 16 year old drivers between 38%-40%. Teendriversource.org reports that not driving at night, using a seat belt, and following the posted speed limit can help prevent teen car accidents.