Teen Driving
The Hard Facts

  • 48% of all teen driving fatalities were single vehicle crashes.
  • Approximately 3,000 15-20 year-olds are killed each year in vehicle crashes.
  • Alcohol and drugs are not major causes for these fatalities - representing only 20%.
  • 54% of all teen passenger deaths occurred when another teen was driving.
  • The teen brain has not fully developed until the mid 20’s. They are susceptible to distractions, risk taking behaviors, and a limited capacity to multi-task.
  • Teens experience great emotional highs and lows. This negatively impacts their judgment and decision-making skills.
  • Teens, especially males, are less likely to use a seat-belt.
  • Inexperience and distractions are the leading cause of teen driving fatalities, particularly for 16 and 17-year-olds.
  • The majority of teen auto fatalities occur on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Most of those deaths occurred between 9 p.m. and midnight.


  • Crash rate is highest during the first 6 months/1,000 miles of licensure. 
  • 80% of crashes involve some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the crash.

  • A teenager is more than 4 times as likely to be killed while driving at night than during the day.
  • 16 to 18-year-olds have the highest crash rate of any other age group. 
  • Teens are most susceptible to drowsiness and admit to driving when sleepy. Just think of a teen’s schedule. They need 9 hours a night but average only 6.5.

  • Teen are more likely than older drivers to underestimate and/or not recognize hazards or dangers.

  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and “tailgate”.

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
    Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
    National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.




The problem with our young drivers is more or less an innate one. It is important to understand where they are developmentally, cognitively, and emotionally. Since we have decided that 16-year-olds can be licensed to drive in this country then we at least need to understand their limitations and develop ways to offset them. Truth be known, we should spread out the learning process, give them more time and experience, and delay the driving age. Law makers, parents and teens all balk at that notion. So, if this is the way it’s going to be lets at least understand the problem.

It is well documented that adolescents do not have the emotional, mental, and physical abilities of an adult. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, which organizes thoughts and makes judgments, is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. What does this mean?  Well, decision making, impulse control, multi-tasking, and regulations of emotions are all negatively effected. It is easy to see why teens are at risk. All the skills they need to be safe on the road are hindered due to their age! Interviewed teens admit driving during periods of emotional highs and lows. They also admit to using a cell phone, changing  the CD, and text message while operating a motor vehicle. Studies at the University of Massachusetts show that teens do not recognize hazardous driving situations. This all comes with maturation. On top of this, they lack driving experience; they have a relatively low repertoire of driving experiences upon which to draw. Is it any wonder we have a national health crisis in this nation? Our teens are not necessarily careless, there’re clueless.