While most teens look forward to earning a driver’s license, parents and guardians often approach the milestone with far more trepidation. Unfortunately, auto accidents are the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the US.
To key to helping teens stay safe on the road is information. When parents and teens understand the most significant problems, they can develop strategies to help lower the associated risks. Here is a closer look at teen driving statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Full Extent of Teen Driving Fatalities
In 2019, approximately 2,400 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes, and another 258,000 suffered injuries severe enough to require treatment in the emergency room. Roughly seven teens within that age range died every day.
However, it is important to note that not all teens have the same amount of risk when behind the wheel of an automobile.
- Male drivers between 16 and 19 face twice the risk of dying in an accident than females in the same age range.
- The presence of other teens in the car also increases the risk of death or injury. The risk increases with the number of teens in the car.
- Sixteen-year-old drivers are more than 1.5 times as likely to get into an accident as 18 and 19-year-olds.
A newly-licensed male driver, who regularly drives with teen passengers in his car, faces the greatest risk of injury or death compared to all other teen drivers.
Increased Risk Factors for Teen Drivers
Several factors combine to create an overall higher risk level for teen drivers.
First, general inexperience is a major contributor to teen driving accidents. As illustrated by the statistics above, even two years of driving experience significantly increases safety behind the wheel. Teens, especially those with less than a full year of driving experience, often fail to recognize potentially dangerous situations and react accordingly.
Also, teens have the lowest rate of seat belts among all groups of drivers. About 40 percent of high school students fail to wear a seat belt every time they are drivers or passengers in an automobile. Even worse, among drivers between 16 and 19, just slightly under half of those killed in accidents were not wearing their seat belts.
Effective Prevention Strategies
By looking at statistics and contributing factors, we can formulate several accident prevention strategies.
Parents and instructors should stress the importance of seat-belt use, even during short and familiar car rides. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that seat belts reduce serious injuries and deaths by half.
Additionally, Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) can help teens gain experience in a controlled and safe way. A GDL program limits driving privileges for young drivers. Each state has its system, but teens are generally prohibited from driving at certain night hours, with other teenage passengers, and more. These programs also mandate parent participation.
“Graduated Licensing programs help ease teens into the practice of safe driving by mitigating risk factors,” said attorney Matt Aulsbrook. “Research indicates GDL programs can reduce fatalities for 16-year-old drivers by as much as 20 percent.”
Learning how to drive safely is an ongoing process. Parents and instructors can develop strategies to help teens gain driving experience while avoiding potentially dangerous situations by understanding the risks.