Did you know that car crashes are the number one killer of teens? For this reason, the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to form Global Youth Traffic Safety Month (GYTSM). They designated May as Global Youth Traffic Safety Month because of the increased driving risks revolving around teen drivers during this time- such as PROM, graduation, and the beginning of summer break.
Teen Driving Statistics
- In 2013, 2,163 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and 243,243 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That means that six teens ages 16–19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. (CDC)
- Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. (CDC)
- In 2013, almost one-third (29 percent) of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding. (NHTSA)
- Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females. (IIHS)
- One of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle is to wear a seat belt. Whether their unsafe behavior stems from immaturity or a false perception that they’re invincible, the numbers speak volumes: teens aren’t buckling up, and neither are their passengers. In 2013, 64 percent of all the young passengers (13- to 19-year-old) of teen (15- to 19-year-old) drivers who died in motor vehicle crashes weren’t restrained. When the teen driver was also unrestrained, the number of all passengers unrestrained increased to almost 90 percent. (NHTSA)
- 58% of teens involved in traffic crashes are distracted. (NOYS)
- Teen drivers are at a greater risk of death in alcohol-related crashes compared to drivers in all other age groups, even though they’re too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol. They went on to state that nationally in 2013, almost one out of five (19 percent) of the teen drivers (15 to 19 years old) involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. (NHTSA)
- 55% of all crashes where a driver fell asleep involve drivers 25 and under. Combining sleepiness with driver inexperience is deadly. (NOYS)
- Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teens in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers. (NHTSA)
8 Leading Causes of Teen Crashes According to the CDC
- Driver inexperience
- Driving with teen passengers
- Nighttime driving
- Not using seat belts
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving
- Impaired driving
How to Help Your Teen Avoid Becoming a Statistic
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), parent involvement is key to helping young drivers avoid crash injuries and death. The AAA states that according to research, teens value the opinions of their parents most of all (even if it doesn’t always seem like it). That’s why understanding the facts and risks and sharing your driving knowledge are so important during your teen’s early driving years. The CDC offers the following tips to help address the eight leading causes of teen crashes:
The CDC states that teen crash risks are highest in the first year that the teen is licensed. In order to help prevent this, parents can provide at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months, after getting their license. This is in addition to the practice they get when they have their learners permit. Another thing parents can do with their teen is have them practice driving on a variety of road types during different times of the day and in various traffic and weather conditions. Parents also need to stress the importance of scanning the roads for any potential hazards- such as pedestrians, animals, other vehicles, bicyclists, and debris that may have fallen off of other cars or been blown into the street during a storm.
Driving with Teen Passengers
Probably due to the distraction of chatting with friends, the crash risk goes up when teens drive with other teens in the car. Some states have a Graduated Driver Licensing system for passenger restrictions, make sure you know what yours are. If you live in a state that doesn’t have this rule, then as their parent you should limit the number of teen passengers that they can have from zero to one. Keep this rule for at least the first six months that your teen is driving so that they can become better acquainted wit the road without added distractions.
Fatal car crashes are more likely to occur at night in all age groups. Usually due to poor visuals because of the lack of light or being tired, add the driver inexperience and you can understand why the risk is even higher for teens. For at least the first six months of licensed driving, make sure your teen is home and off of the road by 9 or 10pm. Take the time to practice night driving with your teen as well.
Not Using Seat Belts
The simplest way to prevent car crash injuries and deaths is to buckle up. Lead by example and wear your seat belt every time you get behind the wheel, no matter how short the drive. Require your teen to use their seat belt every time they are in a vehicle even if they are not driving. Make it a rule that if there are not enough seat belts for everyone to have their own, then not everyone gets in the car. Make it a rule that they do not start the car until everyone has their belt on. The CDC says that simply by making sure the seat belt is on at all times can reduce your teen’s risk of dying or being badly injured in a crash by about half.
Distracted driving has become a serious problem in the US, adding distractions in with a teen’s inexperience and the threat is much bigger. Make sure your teen knows not to talk or text on a cell phone while driving, and not to eat food or put on make-up behind the wheel, or mess with the radio a lot. Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving and discuss it with your teen. Remember, teens watch you, set a good example and stay off of your phone on the road.
Teen drivers cause thousands of crashes every year from driving drowsy. The CDC states that teens are most tired and at risk when driving in the early morning or late at night. If your teen drives themselves to school early in the morning, make sure they are not staying up too late the night before so that they are well rested before getting behind the wheel. You can learn more about drowsy driving here.
According to the CDC, research shows that teens lack the experience, judgment, and maturity to assess risky situations. Always drill it into your teens head that they need to maintain enough space between them and other vehicles to avoid a crash in case of another crash. Make sure they know the importance of following the speed limits and adjusting their speed to match road conditions. Practice safe driving yourself to lead by example. Teach them not to be aggressive drivers and to avoid road rage. If they are running late, remind them that is better to arrive late and alive then to never arrive at all.
Just one drink will impair your teen’s driving ability and increase their risk of a crash. Be a good role model: never drink and drive. Learn the stats on impaired driving and discuss them with your teen. Set up a Parent-Teen driving agreement to really reinforce the message that they should never be behind the wheel or in a car when a driver is impaired. As much as you wish it wouldn’t, there will probably be a time when your teen is faced with the choice of either driving impaired or getting in the car with a driver that is impaired. Make sure your teen feels safe to call you to pick them up in these situations instead to avoid serious injury or death. Don’t condone the behavior and set consequences, but let them know that you would much rather them be safe than sorry.
Have a lifesaving conversation, and agree on car rules and passenger safety with your teen during this Global Youth Traffic Safety Month.