A Complete Guide to Teen Driving Statistics

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Aug 31, 2021

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What You Should Know

  • 1,719 drivers ages 15-20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018
  • Teen drivers with one or more teen passengers are at an increased risk of crashing
  • Teens are more likely to engage in than older drivers is driving over the speed limit

Watching your teenager hop in the car and drive off for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience for many parents—and for good reason. Not only can an accident lead to high insurance rates, but it can also lead to injury. In worst case scenarios, an accident can even be fatal. In fact, car crashes are the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens. 1

While this statistic sounds scary, it’s important to note that teen car accidents are preventable with the proper driver education and adherence to safety standards.

In this guide, we’ll explore the pertinent teen driving statistics currently available, what the most prevalent dangers are for teen drivers and how parents can help educate their teens to avoid a car accident. We’ll also help you get started on finding insurance for your teen driver.

Teen Driving Statistics: Everything You Need to Know

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death within the United States. As such, there are laws in place aimed to reduce fatal crash rates, which, in turn, can lower insurance claim rates among teen drivers.

When it comes to driving-related statistics, we’ve rounded up must-know data to consider before your teenage driver takes to the road:

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,719 drivers ages 15-20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. 
  • In this same year, 15-20-year-olds accounted for 5.3% of total drivers in the United States and 8% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes.2 
  • In 2019, the CDC reported that almost 2,400 teens in the U.S. ages 13-19 were killed in motor vehicle accidents, and over 250,000 were treated in ERs for motor-related injuries.1 

There are various factors at play that contribute to these statistics. Below, we’ll explore which young drivers are most at risk for getting in an accident, and what the root causes are behind these often preventable incidents.

Higher Risk Teens

While all teens are at a higher risk of getting into an auto accident because of their inexperience, some subsets of young adults are at an even more increased risk.1 These include:

  • Male teen drivers – The CDC found that in 2019, the death rate for males ages 16-19 involved in motor vehicle accidents was twice as high as females ages 13-19. 

A 2009 NPR article that explores this phenomenon found that male drivers were more likely to speed, follow other cars too closely, and fail to yield.3 The study also found that male drivers simply take to the road more often, which makes them more vulnerable to driving-related dangers than young female drivers.

  • Teens driving other teens – The CDC has also found that teen drivers with one or more teen passengers are at an increased risk of crashing. Oftentimes, young drivers are accustomed to carrying on multiple conversations at once or take their eyes off the road to change the music or talk to another teen passenger in the car.
  • Newly licensed teen drivers – Teens are at an increased risk of getting into an auto accident within the first few months of acquiring their license. A 2016-2017 study by the National Household Travel Survey found that the “crash rate per mile driven is 1.5 times as high for 16-year-olds as it is for 18-19-year olds.”

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Most Prevalent Dangers for Teen Drivers

If we take the data above at face value, then we could assume that newly licensed male drivers riding around with other teens are at higher risk of getting into an accident due to their driving habits compared to a more experienced, 18-year-old female driving alone. 

While this may be true to some extent, it does not mean that certain teens (i.e. 18-year-old female drivers) are out of the danger zone when it comes to being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

No matter the situation, studies show that teens, due to their inexperience in having to make critical decisions in a split second on the road and their driving habits are more likely to be in accidents than adults. 

Nighttime and weekend driving are also considered risk factors for young drivers: according to the CDC, in 2019, 40% of car crash deaths among drivers ages 13-19 occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and 52% of these crashes happened Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. 

In addition to these risk factors, there are certain dangerous activities that many—if not all—young drivers have engaged in or will engage in at some point in time.1 These include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Speeding

Distracted Driving 

The CDC defines distracted driving as anything that takes your attention away from driving. The three main types of distraction are:

  • Visual – Eyes off the road (looking at a passenger or changing a radio channel)
  • Manual – Hands off the wheel (reaching for an object or eating)
  • Cognitive – Mind off of the task at hand (lost in thought, or engaged in conversation)

More specifically, using a cell phone impairs a novice driver visually, manually, and cognitively. Most drivers, no matter their age, are guilty of texting, calling, emailing, and tweeting while driving. But teens are far more likely to fall into this trap. 

Teen texting and driving statistics, like the data gathered from a 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, showed that 39% of U.S. high school students texted or emailed while driving at least once during the 30 days before taking the survey. 

The CDC has found that:4

  • In 2018, drivers ages 15-19 were more likely to be distracted than drivers ages 20 and older. 
  • In 2018, 8% of drivers ages 15-19 were distracted at the time of a car crash. 
  • In 2018, 9% of teens died in motor vehicle accidents that involved distracted driving.
  • A 2019 study revealed that students with mostly As and Bs were just as likely to text and email while driving as students with lower grades. 
  • That same 2019 study found that students who texted and emailed while driving were more likely to engage in other risky behaviors including:
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol
  • Driving their own car after drinking alcohol 

Not Wearing a Seatbelt 

As the roadside billboards proclaim: seatbelts save lives. In 2019 the CDC found that 48% of drivers and passengers ages 16-19 who died in motor vehicle accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. 

Additionally, studies show that the simple act of buckling up can reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by 50%.1However, according to the CDC, young drivers are less likely to buckle up than older drivers:1

  • A 2016-2019 study by the National Occupant Protection Use Survey found that 87% of drivers ages 16-24 wore their seat belts compared to 90% or higher of drivers ages 25+. 
  • In 2019, 43.1% of U.S. high school students did not always wear a seatbelt when riding in a car with someone else driving. 

Alcohol 

Drinking any amount of alcohol while underage is illegal, and drinking any amount of alcohol before getting behind the wheel is against the law, no matter your age. 

Unfortunately, the facts of the law do not always deter teen drivers from engaging in this high-risk behavior. According to the CDC and the results gathered from their 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey:1

  • 16.7% of students rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol at least once during the 30 days before the survey.
  • Students who engaged in other risky behavior while driving (like speeding or texting) were 3 to 13 times as likely to also have engaged in driving after drinking. 
  • In 2018, 24% of drivers ages 15-20 who were killed in car crashes had been drinking.
  • In 2018, 15% of drivers 16-20 involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher, a level illegal for all adults of drinking age or older in the country. 
  • Alcohol involvement was more prevalent among young male drivers than females: In 2018, 21% of male drivers ages 15-20 were involved in fatal crashes compared to 14% of females drivers in the same age group. 

Speeding 

The final risky behavior that teens are more likely to engage in than older drivers is driving over the speed limit, as well as performing in other risky behaviors such as following other drivers too closely. 

  • In 2018, the CDC found that 30% of male drivers and 18% of female drivers ages 15-20 who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding.1 
  • Another study, this one by the Governors Highway Safety Association, found that from 2000-2011, teens were involved in a whopping 19,477 speeding-related crashes.5 

The need for speed may stem from driver inexperience, or a feeling of infallibility many new, young drivers may experience when hitting the road for the first time.  

How to Help Teen Drivers Avoid Accidents 

As we’ve outlined, young drivers under the age of 20 are more likely to become involved in dangerous or fatal car accidents due to inexperience as well as engaging in a variety of risky behaviors.

To protect your children, your vehicle, and other drivers on the road, parents should educate young drivers about the risks they face every time they get behind the wheel in order to avoid traffic crashes. The more these teen drivers know, the more likely they’ll be able to avoid future accidents. 

To help teen drivers avoid accidents, parents can:5

  • Talk to your teens – Being transparent with young drivers about the top risk factors that contribute to motor vehicle accidents can help dissuade these young drivers from sending a text or inviting a handful of their friends into the car with them. Share stories and statistics (like the ones listed above) to help reinforce the importance of what you’re saying. 
  • Learn more about the graduated driver licensing (GDL) system – All 50 states and D.C. have a GDL system that can help reduce a teen’s crash risk by up to 50%. Learn the laws of your state and share this information with your teen. For instance, most of these laws will restrict how many passengers can ride with a teen driver.
  • Set a good example – The easiest way to get through to your teenage driver is to start setting a good example behind the wheel from the moment your child is able to recognize what you are doing. This means no drinking and driving, always buckling up, and always adhering to the rules of the road.  

Car Insurance for Teen Drivers: Getting Started  

Because teen drivers are more likely to engage in risky behavior and become involved in serious or fatal car accidents, it goes without saying that car insurance rates for teens are higher than adults. 

For example, the average cost of car insurance for a 17-year-old is $2,376 per year while the average cost of insurance for adult drivers is $1,674 a year.6

The good news is that teens can receive discounts from your insurer including:

  • Good grade discount – Many insurers will offer reduced premiums to high school and college students who receive a certain grade point average. 
  • Driver training discount – Taking a defensive driving course or other specific courses outside of regular Drivers Ed can also help reduce your premium. 
  • Secondary or occasional driver discount – If your teen is away at college and not using their vehicle or if they just don’t drive that often, listing them as a secondary or occasional driver can help save you money. 

Keep in mind that car insurance rates are also determined by the state in which you live, what kind of car you drive, how often you drive, your driving record, and your age and gender. 

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When preparing your teen to drive, knowing the data can help you better understand the dangers of driving, and how to prevent them. Oftentimes, you can protect your child in more ways than one, which includes acquiring the best car insurance for your young driver

If you don’t know how much auto insurance coverage you need, our experts can help. When searching for affordable car insurance, let 4AutoInsuranceQuote take the wheel. 

With our search tool, we can help you decide which policy is best for you and your teen. Just enter your zip code and follow a few simple steps to receive your free quotes. 

Talking to your teen about the dangers of driving can be tough, but comparing auto insurance rates online doesn’t have to be. Check out 4AutoInsuranceQuote today.

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teen Drivers: Get the Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html 
  2. III. Facts + Statistics: Teen Drivers.https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-teen-drivers 
  3. NPR. Teenage Boys More Likely to Be in Car Crashes.  https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120537839
  4. CDC. Distracted Driving. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/distracted_driving/index.html 
  5. NHTSA. Teen Driving. https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving
  6. Bankrate. Car Insurance For 17-year-olds.  https://www.bankrate.com/insurance/car/17-year-old/ 
  7. Insurance Information Institute. Auto Insurance for Teen Drivers. https://www.iii.org/article/auto-insurance-teen-drivers 

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