Teen Car Accidents

The risk of being involved in a car accident the highest for drivers aged 16- to 19-year-olds than it is for any other age group. For each mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are about four times more likely than other drivers to crash. Teenagers are about 10% of the US population but account for 12% of all fatal crashes. Each year over 5,000 teens ages 16 to 20 die due to fatal injuries caused car accidents. About 400,000 drivers age 16 to 20 will be seriously injured.

Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate or not recognize dangerous situations. Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways, the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next.

Teenage boys are more likely than teenage girls to get into a deadly accident. About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in car accidents in 2009 were male. Crash risks are much higher during the first year that teenagers are allowed to drive than at any other time. There is a correlation between the age of the driver and the speed with which the accident occurred. The crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16-year-olds as it is for 18- and 19-year-olds.

Distracted driving presents a major reason why there are so many accidents among teenage drivers. Hand-held cell phone use was highest among 16- to 24-year-olds The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers.

Teenage drivers and passengers are the least likely demographic to wear seat belts. In 2008, 55 percent of passenger vehicles occupants ages 16-20 who were killed in crashes were not buckled up.

In addition to speeding, and distracted driving, a significant portion of teenage car accidents are the result of driving drunk. In 2009, 33% of teenage drivers who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration higher than .01 and 28% had a BAC of .08 or higher. Most teenage accidents occur on the weekends, in 2009 55% of teenage related driving deaths occurred.

The Massachusetts Junior Operator Law states drivers under 18 cannot drive with another passenger under 18. The only exception is for for siblings. Teen drivers are also not allowed to drive between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. In September 2010, the Safe Driver Law took effect, prohibiting drivers under 18 from using cell phones while driving.

Massachusetts’ Graduated Driver’s Licensing Program attempts to address some of the issue by granting driving rights in three stages: learner’s permit, junior operator’s license and full license. However studies continue to show that parents can have the greatest impact on the driving habits of their teenagers by staying actively involved long after a young driver climbs behind the wheel.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group.1 In 2009, eight teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries.