A look at the ‘typical’ teen driver crash
Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group. Per mile traveled, they have the highest involvement rate in crashes, from those involving only property damage to those that are fatal.
The problem is worst among 16-year-olds, who have the most limited driving experience and an immaturity that often results in risk-taking behind the wheel.
The characteristics of 16-year-olds' fatal crashes highlight these problems.
- Driver error: Compared with older drivers’ fatal crashes, those of 16-year-olds more often involve driver error, often on two-lane, curving roads, with narrow shoulders.
- Distractions in the car: With smartphones, texting, loud music, eating food, applying makeup, or just taking eyes off the road, it’s no wonder why distracted driving is a growing cause of teen crashes.
- Speeding: Sixteen-year-old drivers have high crash rates in which excessive speed is a factor.
- Single-vehicle crashes: Many 16-year-olds' fatal crashes involve only the teen's vehicle. Typically these are high-speed crashes in which the driver lost control.
- Passengers: Sixteen-year-olds' fatal crashes are more likely to occur when other teenagers are in the car. The risk increases sharply with every additional passenger.
- Alcohol: Although this is a problem among drivers of all ages, it's actually less of a problem for 16-year-olds. About 10% of fatally injured 16-year-old drivers have blood-alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or greater, but alcohol becomes more of a problem for older teens.
- Night driving: This is a high-risk activity for beginners. Per mile driven, the fatal crash rate for 16-year-olds is about twice as high at night as during the day.
- Low safety belt use: Most teens who die in crashes aren’t using their safety belts.
The more of those factors your teen can avoid, the better the odds of avoiding a crash. We can’t expect teens to be perfect. Teenagers are beginners. There’s a lot to learn, and only experience can teach that. Good parent-teen communication about the risks can give you – and your teen – some peace of mind.