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Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage for many teenagers. But the reality is, teen drivers face much higher rates of serious crashes. Research from the CDC found that the risk of accidents is higher among young drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 than among any other age demographic. Teens in this age group are almost three times as likely as older drivers to be in a fatal accident, based on miles driven.
Teen drivers lack experience behind the wheel, which is one of the reasons why the rate of accidents is higher among young drivers. However, fatal accidents can often be avoided. To keep everyone safe, it’s imperative for teen drivers to practice good driving habits while they are learning to drive and in the years after getting their license. For example, avoiding night driving and keeping passengers to a minimum can help reduce the chance of a crash.
Due to the risks associated with teen drivers, many car insurance companies will not sell an independent policy to a newly-licensed driver under 18. To legally drive, a teen must usually be added to their parent or guardian’s existing car insurance policy. However, adding a teen driver to an existing car insurance policy will cause the premium to increase significantly. To get cheaper car insurance, getting multiple rate quotes can help you find the lowest premium.
Teen car crash facts and statistics
To learn more about teen car crashes, we pulled teen driver statistics from some reputable sources. Here are some staggering facts about young drivers and traffic accidents:
- Newly licensed teens have the highest crash rates. During the first few first months of having a license, data shows that the crash rate per mile driven is roughly 1.5 times as high for 16-year-old drivers as it is for 18- to 19-year-old drivers. (CDC)
- Distracted driving is problematic among teen drivers. A 2019 report found that, among U.S. high school students who drove, nearly 40% said they sent a text or email at least once during the month before the survey. (CDC)
- Statistically, teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to drive above the speed limit and follow more closely behind the vehicle in front of them. (CDC)
- In 2019, almost 50% of teen drivers and passengers between the ages of 16 and 19 who died in car accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. (CDC)
- Teens are more likely to speed than older drivers. A 2019 report found that the proportion of fatal crashes that involved speeding was higher for teenage drivers than for other age groups. (GHSA)
- Among young drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old, more than 50% of all crashes occurred in the dark. (GHSA)
- In another study of drivers between the ages of 16 and 19, the data showed that young drivers were speeding in nearly 80% of single-vehicle crashes and did not yield to another vehicle in more than 40% of angle crashes. (NSC)
- Drinking and driving is illegal in all 50 states, and many states have a zero tolerance policy for young drivers who drink and drive. In 2020, 790 drivers aged 15 to 20 who were involved in a fatal crash tested positive for alcohol, and 24% had a BAC over the legal limit for adults (0.08 or higher). (NSC)
- In 2020, the majority of teen car crashes occurred during the summer, specifically in June, July and August. (IIHS)
- An estimated 50% of all fatal car accidents among teenagers in 2020 happened on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Most crashes were reported between 9 p.m. and midnight. (IIHS)
Common behaviors resulting in collisions
Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents and fatal crashes due to their lack of experience on the road. Here are some of the most common driving behaviors that often cause traffic accidents among young drivers.
After getting a driver’s license, many teens are excited to drive their friends around. However, having passengers in the car can increase the risk of an accident. Below are some statistics on accidents and peer passengers:
- The risk of an accident increases when a teen driver has young adult passengers in the car, and there is no adult supervision. (CDC)
- Data shows that the risk of a crash increases with each additional teen passenger in the vehicle. For example, a teen driver with four young adult passengers has a greater risk of a collision than a teen driver with one young adult passenger. (CDC)
- In 2020, 56% of all deaths among teenage vehicle passengers were riding in a car driven by another teenager. (IIHS)
Speeding is a leading factor in fatal crashes among drivers of all ages, but statistics show that teen drivers have higher rates of speeding than older drivers. Here are some teen driver statistics related to speeding:
- In 2020, the proportion of speeding-related fatal accidents to all fatal crashes decreased as the age of the driver increased. (NSC)
- In general, data shows that female drivers are less likely to be speeding at the time of an accident than male drivers. This is consistent across all age groups. (NSC)
- A study from 2019 found that more than 30% of male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20, and 17% of female drivers in the same age group who were involved in fatal accidents were speeding. (CDC)
Failing to scan for hazards
Because teens lack experience on the road, they often fail to scan for hazards that can lead to crashes. Here are some points to be aware of:
- Among car accidents that occurred from a driver error, a teenage driver made the error almost 80% of the time. (PubMed)
- In teen car accidents, 46% involved a recognition error, more than 40% involved a decision error and 8% involved a performance error. (PubMed)
- Poor surveillance, speeding and distracted driving combined accounted for just under half of all crashes involving teen drivers in 2010. (PubMed)
Distracted driving doesn’t just mean texting and driving. Other activities, like eating, drinking, and listening to music can contribute to distracting driving as well. Here are some statistics on teen accidents caused by distracted driving:
- Among all fatal crashes involving distracted drivers in 2019, data shows that a higher percentage of drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 were distracted, compared to drivers over age 21. (CDC)
- Looking at all fatal accidents involving a distracted driver in 2019, nearly 10% of drivers were young adults who were distracted at the time of the collision. (CDC)
- In a 2019 study of high school students, respondents who said they texted or emailed while driving were also more likely to not wear a seatbelt, drive with teens who had been drinking and drink and drive themselves. (CDC)
Following too closely
Many drivers are guilty of tailgating, or following too closely to the car in front of them. Teen drivers also tailgate, which can increase the risk of a collision. Below are some facts on teen drivers and the impact of tailgating:
- Among single-vehicle crashes involving a teen driver, 36% of rear-end accidents were caused by following too closely. (NSC)
- A 2014 report determined that more than 20% of all multi-vehicle crashes when a teen was driving involved tailgating. (Tinsman & Sciano)
Teen crash-related deaths over time
In recent years, teen traffic fatalities have decreased. But historical data has uncovered several patterns in teen crash deaths. For example, most accidents involving teens occur on the weekend, and between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight. In the following tables, you can learn more about teen crash-related deaths based on different variables, according to 2020 data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by percentage vs all motor vehicle crash deaths
|Crash Type||Teen crash deaths||Crash deaths for all ages||% Teen crashes of all crash deaths|
|Passenger vehicle occupant||2,159||24,019||9%|
Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by month, 2020
Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by day of week, 2020
|Day of week||Deaths||%|
Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by time of day, 2020
|Time of day||Deaths||%|
|Midnight – 3 a.m.||419||15%|
|3 a.m. – 6 a.m.||259||10%|
|6 a.m. – 9 a.m.||207||8%|
|9 a.m. – noon||163||6%|
|Noon – 3 p.m.||277||10%|
|3 p.m. – 6 p.m.||430||16%|
|6 p.m. – 9 p.m.||445||16%|
|9 p.m. – midnight||524||19%|
Teen related crash fatalities by state
To better understand where fatal teen crashes are happening, we leveraged data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on teen crashes across the U.S. In the table below, you can see a breakdown of the percentage of accidents that involved teen drivers in all 50 states, and in Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
|State||% of fatal accidents involving young drivers|
Rules for the road and prevention
Many teen traffic fatalities are preventable. When teens practice safe driving habits, it can reduce the risk of single- and multi-car accidents. Here are some tips that teen drivers should keep in mind to stay safe behind the wheel.
- Always wear a seatbelt: Data repeatedly proves that seatbelts save lives, whether you are a driver or a passenger. Always wear your seatbelt in the car, no matter how far you are driving. Also, keep in mind that not wearing a seatbelt is illegal in all 50 states. In some places, you can get cited for not wearing a seatbelt, even if you are not breaking any other laws.
- Never drink and drive: It’s illegal for teen drivers under 21 to drive after drinking alcohol, even if their BAC is below the legal limit. Unfortunately, a large number of fatal accidents involving young drivers are alcohol-related. Never drink and drive, or get in the car with someone who has been drinking.
- Avoid driving at night: Teen crash statistics show that most car accidents involving young drivers occur at night, especially between 9 p.m. – midnight. In general, most accidents among drivers of all ages occur in the dark. By avoiding night driving, you could potentially lower your risk of getting into an accident.
- Limit distractions in the car: Distracted driving is a major issue among young drivers. Texting, emailing, eating, listening to music, and driving with multiple passengers can all contribute to a crash. Teen drivers should focus on limiting distractions while driving whenever possible to reduce the chance of a collision.
- Be mindful of driving other teens: It can be fun for teens to drive around with their friends, but driving with a car full of passengers can contribute to distractions and increase the likelihood of an accident occurring. To stay safe, teens should only drive with one friend at a time, unless there is an adult present in the car who can supervise.