Safety concerns for parents of a teenage driver are justified when you consider that young drivers aged 15 to 19 years old have higher crash and accident fatality rates compared to older age groups in the United States. Below, we explore recent findings and hopefully provide some useful accident prevention tips you can use to help protect your child.
Teen driver accident fatalities by the numbers
The CDC reports that motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24 in 2015. However, teen drivers made up only 40 percent of the fatalities involved in the accidents they caused. There were 4,702 total fatalities involved in accidents involving teen drivers in 2015, which include:
- 1,886 drivers age 15 to 20
- 975 passengers of every age, 614 of whom were age 15 to 20
- 1,315 occupants of other vehicles
- 526 nonoccupants (people who were killed outside of a vehicle)
Accident fatality trends
This data gives us a good glimpse of the larger issue, but what types of risky driving behavior are causing these fatalities?
While it seemed like a relatively small number compared to the total number of fatalities in teen driver involved accidents, the number of teenage passenger fatalities gives one clue. Teen passengers made up for 13 percent of all teen driver accident fatalities.
That’s a significant number of fatal accidents that involved teen drivers and their friends. In fact, studies have found that teen drivers exhibited riskier driving behavior in the presence of male teen passengers. Teen passengers often distract and encourage teen drivers to drive dangerously, like speeding and disregarding safe traffic etiquette.
Other trends and risk factors include:
- Drunk driving. There were 494 teen driver fatalities who registered at a BAC level of 0.01 percent or higher and 397 fatalities who registered at a level exceeding 0.08 percent—the legal limit for adults age 21 and older in all 50 states.
- Seat belt usage. 42 percent of teen drivers who were killed in accidents didn’t use seat belts. That number increased to 60 percent for teen drivers with a BAC of 0.01 percent or higher.
- Hazard awareness and response time. Due to their relative inexperience, teen drivers are more likely than adults to have lower hazard awareness while driving and overestimate their capability to avoid crashes.
Accident prevention tips
As a parent, you can play an important role in your teen driver’s safety by taking a proactive role in their driver’s education. Many of the common hazards discussed here boil down to the driver’s inexperience with driving and its dangers. The presence of an experienced driver in the car with a teen driver can make a huge difference.
Here are a few things you can do to educate your teen about driving safely:
- Ride along with your teen driver and provide constructive criticism and tips on their development.
- When it’s safe to do so (especially when it’s not distracting for them), quiz your teen about traffic etiquette and laws. Every state’s Department of Motor Vehicles provides documents and guides for new drivers that you can use to help teach your teen best driving practices.
- Discuss with them about the dangers of drunk driving, distracted driving, and driving with their friends.
- Be firm about never driving after drinking even one alcoholic beverage or speeding or showing off to their friends.
- Have them pull over and turn off the engine to take or send calls or texts or to adjust navigation devices.
Above all else, practice these prevention tips yourself when they’re your passenger. Setting yourself as an example of a good driver is just as important as teaching them responsible and safe driving.
Getting help with a motor vehicle accident
Many states are less harsh to teen drivers than experienced drivers in accident cases, but teen drivers are more vulnerable to losing their legal driving privileges and could still incur costly penalties.
An experienced motor vehicle accident attorney can help ensure that the penalties your teen could face aren’t excessively damaging to their driving record, which in turn can affect your insurance rates.