There are more than 21 million people between the ages of 15 and 19 in the United States. This large group of people makes up a significant portion of the group commonly called “teen drivers”. Teen drivers are considered risky because they are inexperienced and haven’t developed adult decision-making skills.
But is that really the long-and-short of teen drivers? Let’s take a look at some facts about teen drivers compiled by an Atlanta car accident lawyer.
Facts about Teen Drivers
Sadly, the factors that make teen drivers risky also make them much more likely to be involved in an accident causing injury or death. Consider these 2018 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Nearly 2,500 teens ages 13-19 died in auto accidents.
- Around 285,000 teens required emergency treatment for auto accident injuries.
- Auto accidents involving teens cost more than $11 billion in medical and work-related costs.
- The risk of auto accidents is higher among teens age 16-19 than any other age group.
- Teens 16-19 are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal auto accident than drivers 20 or older.
Why are Teen Drivers So at Risk?
There are several reasons why teen drivers are more at risk than older drivers. While we briefly mentioned the lack of skill and decision-making, there are other, more specific, factors that make teens more at risk. These factors include:
- Inexperience: Teen drivers are more likely to underestimate their surroundings. They also don’t have the ability to discern hazards and make critical decisions quickly.
- Night and Weekend Driving: In 2018, 37% of fatal teen auto accidents happened between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. More than 50% of fatal accidents happened on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
- Seat Belt Use: Teen drivers and passengers have the lowest rate of seat belt use among all age groups. In 2018, seat belt usage among teen drivers was around 87%. In 2019, around 41% of high school students reported not always wearing their seat belt when riding with others. Around half of teen drivers who die in auto accidents are not wearing a seat belt.
- Speeding: Teen drivers are more likely to speed than older drivers. In 2018, 30% of male drivers involved in fatal accidents were speeding. Only 18% of female drivers involved in fatal accidents were speeding.
- Alcohol Use: Drinking any amount of alcohol before driving increases the risk of being involved in an accident. In 2019, a Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed the following:
- Drinking alcohol is illegal for individuals under 21 years old.
- In 2017, 24% of teen drivers ages 15-20 who died in accidents were intoxicated.
- 5.4% of high school students reported drinking alcohol before driving within the past 30 days.
- 16.7% of high school students report riding in a vehicle with a driver who had been drinking within the last 30 days.
- In 2018, 15% of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. 0.08% is the legal limit for adults 21 and older.
- In 2017, 58% of teen drivers killed in accidents who had been drinking were also not wearing a seat belt.
Which Teens are Most At Risk?
Teen drivers may generally be at a higher risk of auto accidents, injuries, or fatalities, but some teens are more at risk than others. These are:
- Males: Male drivers 16-19 are nearly two times more likely to be involved in a fatal auto accident than female drivers in the same age group. Male teen drivers are also more likely to drink and drive than female drivers.
- Teens with Passengers: Teen drivers who have teenage passengers are at a higher risk of being involved in an auto accident. This risk increases with each additional passenger in the car.
- Teens with New Licenses: Teen drivers who are newly-licensed are at a particularly high risk of being involved in an auto accident. Research shows that during the first two years of driving, teen drivers are around 1.5 times more likely – per mile driven – to be involved in an accident.