Why are teen drivers more likely to cause car crashes than other age groups?

All parents want to keep children safe in car accidents, even if the child is the one who is driving. Unfortunately, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., and teenage drivers have some of the highest accident ratings of any age group.

Teen Driver Behaviors That Put All Road Users at Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,333 teenagers in the United States between the ages of 16 and 19 died in 2015, and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for car accident injuries the previous year. On average, six teenagers die every day as a result of crashes, whether they are behind the wheel or riding as a passenger.

Research from the CDC points to a few key reasons teen drivers are likely to be involved in car accidents:

  • Lack of experience. Teen drivers have triple the fatal crash risk of older drivers, in part because they do not have the skills to recognize and avoid road hazards. Teens often spot hazardous situations (such as wet roads or cars stopped on the shoulder) later than more experienced drivers, and they are also more likely to underestimate the dangers of a potentially harmful situation and make a critical error that leads to a crash. The risk of an accident is highest during the first few months after the teen has gotten his or her license, and decreases as the driver gains experience on the road.
  • Distractions. Drivers under age 20 have the highest rates of distraction-related fatalities in the nation, especially those who text and use cellphones while driving. In 2015, the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) found that 42% of high school students who had driven in the past 30 days admitted to sending a text or email while driving. Students who admitted to frequent texting were also more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors, such as drinking.
  • Driving with friends. Researchers have discovered a link between the number of teen passengers and increased crash risk when an unsupervised teenager is driving. Fortunately, Tennessee’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program has rules in place to prevent teenagers who are still learning from carrying too many passengers. Those driving with a learner’s permit may only drive with a licensed driver over 21 in the front seat, and those with an intermediate license (Level II) may only have one passenger in the car.
  • Speeding. Teens are likelier to engage in activities that make it difficult to stop suddenly, including speeding and following too closely behind another vehicle. Risk-taking behavior increases with male teen drivers, especially if there are male passengers.
  • Weekend and night driving. Teenagers whose licenses no longer have night-driving restrictions are at significant risk of suffering fatal accidents. In 2014, half of all teenage deaths from car crashes took place between the hours of 3 p.m. and midnight. Weekends were also particularly deadly, with 53% of fatalities occurring on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Drinking and drug use. Over a million high school teens drink alcohol and get behind the wheel every year. One survey from 2015 found that 20% of teenagers admitted to riding with a driver in the previous month who had been drinking alcohol. In 2014, 17% of drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 who were involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of .08% or higher.
  • Lax seat belt use. Teenagers have some of the lowest rates of seat belt use when compared with other age groups. A 2015 survey discovered that only 61% of high school students always wear seat belts when riding with another person. Teen drivers with involved parents were twice as likely to wear seat belts regularly.

If you have questions after being injured in an accident, the attorneys at GriffithLaw will listen to your story and explain your rights in your free case evaluation. Fill out the quick contact form on this page to get started, or order a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.

John Griffith
Nashville Personal Injury Trial Attorney