The Most Common Causes of Teenage Driver Accidents

Teenage drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are at a higher risk of being involved in car accidents than any other age group. This is due to a combination of inexperience, risk-taking behavior, and lack of skill. Understanding the most common causes of accidents for teen drivers can help parents, teens, and policymakers take steps to improve safety on the road. This article will provide an overview of the leading contributors to teenage driver crashes along with tips to reduce the risks.

Inexperience and Lack of Skill

One of the biggest factors in teen driver accidents is simply inexperience behind the wheel. Most states have graduated licensing programs that slowly phase in full driving privileges over time under supervision. However, teens are still likely to have less time driving than older, more experienced drivers. Critical driving skills like hazard perception, judgment, and vehicle control take time and practice to develop.

Some key statistics on inexperience and teen crashes:

  • Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents within the first year of receiving their license. Crash rates don’t start to decline until age 20.
  • The fatal crash rate for teens is 3 times as high as for drivers over 20.
  • Teens with less than 6 months of experience driving alone have a much higher crash and fatality rate than those with more time behind the wheel.

To help teens get the supervised practice they need, parents should:

  • Enroll teens in reputable driver’s education courses.
  • Ensure teens complete the state’s required number of supervised driving hours.
  • Provide additional supervised driving practice above state requirements across various road types.
  • Drive with teens frequently after licensing to continue modeling good habits.

Distracted Driving

Another major factor in accidents for teenage drivers is distraction behind the wheel. Teens engage in high-risk distracted driving behaviors more frequently than older drivers. Activities like texting, talking to passengers, eating, adjusting controls, and more take the teen’s attention away from the road.

Key statistics on distraction and teen driver crashes:

  • 60% of severe teen crashes involve distraction as a factor.
  • Teens are more likely to have multiple passengers, which increases crash risk. Passengers are a source of distraction through conversation and behavior.
  • 50% of teens admit to texting behind the wheel.
  • Teens remain more prone to distractions from technology like cell phones versus experienced adult drivers.

Parents can help teens avoid distractions by:

  • Prohibiting cell phone use, including hands-free options which remain distracting.
  • Limiting the number of peer passengers, especially for newly licensed teens.
  • Demonstrating good habits by eliminating parental distractions when driving with teens.

Risky Driving Behavior

Teens are more likely than other drivers to engage in risky behaviors like speeding, tailgating, improper lane changes, and running red lights. Immaturity in risk assessment and impulse control contribute to these unsafe actions.

Some key data on risky teen driving behaviors:

  • Speeding is a factor in about 27% of fatal crashes for teen drivers.
  • Teens have the highest rate of speeding, driving after substance use, and drowsy driving compared to older drivers.
  • Male teens tend to engage in risky behaviors more frequently than female teens.
  • Having teen passengers increases risky behaviors in teen drivers.

Parents can help address risky behaviors by:

  • Having frank conversations about driving risks and resisting peer pressure.
  • Modeling safe habits from the passenger seat.
  • Setting clear rules against substance use and enforcing serious consequences for violations.
  • Using teen safe driving apps to monitor behaviors like speeding.

Driving While Impaired

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs poses heightened risks for drivers of any age but is an especially common factor in teen crashes. Novice teen drivers lack the experience to handle a vehicle safely while impaired. Immature judgment contributes to the choice to drive while intoxicated as well.

Key data on impaired driving and teen crashes:

  • About a quarter of teen driver fatalities involve alcohol.
  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to drive after using marijuana or ride with an impaired driver.
  • Crash risk starts increasing for teens at low levels of alcohol, well before the legal limit.
  • Teens have a higher risk of crashing at lower impairment levels versus more experienced adult drivers.

Parents can prevent impaired driving by:

  • Establishing a zero-tolerance policy for substance use before driving.
  • Refusing to provide alcohol or securing liquor at home.
  • Leading by example through responsible choices.
  • Expressing willingness to provide rides home if teens cannot safely drive.

Nighttime and Weekend Driving Risks

Teen crash rates are higher at night and on weekends, times when teens may be more likely to take risks and engage in recreational activities. Driving later at night also contributes to drowsiness, another risk factor. Less traffic and supervision during these times contributes to teens making unsafe choices.

Key statistics on teen night and weekend driving risks:

  • The fatal crash rate per mile driven is about 3 times as high at night versus the day for teen drivers.
  • Over 50% of teen driver fatalities occur on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Risky behaviors like speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving occur more frequently at night.
  • Drowsy driving is more likely to occur late at night.

Parents can minimize risks by:

  • Establishing earlier curfews for new teen drivers.
  • Restricting late night recreational driving, especially with teen passengers.
  • Limiting weekend night driving until teens gain more experience.
  • Ensuring teens are well-rested before driving late at night or long distances.

Graduated Licensing Restrictions

All states have implemented graduated licensing laws that phase in privileges for teen drivers over time. However, teens frequently violate these restrictions, leading to increased accident risks. Common graduated licensing rules include passenger, nighttime driving, and cell phone restrictions.

  • Teen crash fatality rates are lower in states with the strongest nighttime restrictions for teen drivers.
  • When teen passenger restrictions are lifted, crash rates increase.

Parents should:

  • Ensure teens understand the licensing rules and risks of violations.
  • Enforce restrictions by setting clear expectations and consequences.
  • Look for ways to strengthen family rules beyond minimum legal requirements.

Teen drivers face increased risks on the road due to inexperience, distractions, risky behaviors, and other factors. However, parents can play a key role in helping teens get the skills they need and minimizing dangerous habits. Remember, your teen’s safety is too important to leave to chance. Follow the tips in this article, and don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced auto accident attorneys if your teen driver has been in a crash.  

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