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The thrill of getting your driver’s license can be tempered with the sobering reality that teen drivers have the highest crash rates of any age group. It’s important to understand these risks and how you can avoid them so everyone can stay safe on the road.

Distracted driving is often called “the new drunk driving.” Many teenage drivers are distracted by their phones and other electronic devices when they’re behind the wheel.

Driver Inexperience

The biggest cause of teen car accidents is simply that teens have less experience behind the wheel than their older, more experienced peers. This is true even for those who passed their learner’s permit and got their license in the last few years because they haven’t had enough time on the road to build up the skills necessary to handle the complexities of the driving environment.

It takes time and practice to develop the skills required to safely operate a motor vehicle (0ften including undergoing a comprehensive online 5-hour pre-licensing course), especially in varying weather conditions. In the United States, there are more than 30,000 teen driver fatalities each year—that’s about seven deaths every day (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006a). These crashes aren’t just limited to those who were behind the wheel; they also include thousands of other teenagers who are passengers and non-drivers who are injured.

While any driver can crash, young drivers are at an especially high risk due to their inexperience and a tendency to be impulsive. This explains why teens tend to engage in risky behaviors, such as speeding and texting while driving, that lead to serious auto accidents.

Research shows that the part of the brain that manages motor skills and emotion, as well as aversion to taking risks, does not fully mature until age 25. This is a significant reason why safe driving is a skill that requires training, rather than natural ability.

In addition, teens often have a false sense of invincibility that leads them to believe they can handle risky behaviors that could put themselves and others at risk of injury or death. This includes driving on icy roads and at night when they’ve never handled those conditions before, driving with other teens in the vehicle who have different levels of skill, or driving in unsafe vehicles that may not have safety features or are poorly maintained.

This is why some states require teen drivers to log a number of hours in a variety of road conditions before they can take the test to get their license, but this alone will not solve the problem. The key is having plenty of hands-on driving experience—not just learning about it, but actually doing it, over and over again.

Distracted Driving

Many people have heard of the dangers of distracted driving, which occurs when a driver’s attention is diverted from the road and focused on something else. While it is widely known that talking on the phone and texting while driving are dangerous, there are other common sources of distraction that often lead to crashes.

Teen drivers are particularly susceptible to distractions because they may not be as practiced behind the wheel. They are busy juggling school, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and socializing with friends. In addition, they are often sleep deprived and have to contend with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder that can affect their ability to concentrate.

All of these factors can contribute to a driver’s inattention behind the wheel, which leads to accidents. Studies have shown that teens are more likely to crash when they talk on the phone or text than other drivers, but they are also more likely to be distracted by other things such as eating, talking with passengers, and even daydreaming.

Distracted driving can lead to severe or fatal car crashes, and it is especially dangerous for teenagers who have less experience on the road. In New York, teen drivers account for only 12 percent of motorists but are involved in 20 percent of all accidents. The vast majority of these accidents can be attributed to distraction.

The most common cause of distracted driving is talking or texting on the phone. In fact, teens are twice as likely to crash if they are talking on the phone as other drivers. The reason is that when a driver talks or texts on the phone, their brain is not able to process the information they are hearing and seeing at the same time. This slows down their reaction times to the point that they can no longer react to the glaring hazards on the road or take evasive action to avoid a collision.

In one study, researchers analyzed dashboard camera recordings of teenage drivers just before the crashes occurred. The results showed that teens were distracted for six seconds before the accident. Of this, 4.1 seconds was spent looking at their phones.


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One of the most common reasons teenage drivers get into accidents is because they are driving too fast. This can be a result of many things, including the typical teenage attitude of “showing off” to friends or simply feeling invincible. However, speeding decreases the amount of time a driver has to react in dangerous situations, increases their vehicle’s stopping distance, and reduces the ability of road safety structures (like guardrails, impact attenuators, and crash cushions) to protect the car’s occupants.

Another reason that teens drive too fast is because they are worried about being late for school, appointments, or other activities. This can make them want to leave earlier than they should and drive faster in order to make up for lost time. This is a recipe for disaster since it causes the driver to focus on other things and take their mind off the road.

In addition, some teenagers drive too fast because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is another extremely dangerous reason to be behind the wheel, and parents should talk to their children about the importance of abstaining from drugs or alcohol when they are driving.

Teens also tend to not wear their seat belts, which can significantly increase the risk of injury if they are involved in an accident. Parents should talk to their children about the importance of wearing seat belts and set a good example by always wearing their own.

Overall, the most common reasons for teenage driver accidents include lack of experience, distractions, speeding, and passengers. To help prevent these types of accidents, parents should make sure that their children get plenty of practice driving in a variety of conditions and that they take a defensive driver course when they are old enough. In addition, they should talk to their children about the dangers of texting and driving, and should insist that they only drive with well-behaved, low-risk passengers. Finally, they should discuss the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and staying alert when driving, as this is another key to keeping them safe on the road.


The risk of teen crashes increases dramatically when the driver has passengers in the car. According to NHTSA research, teens are two and a half times more likely to engage in high-risk driving behaviors when they have a teenage passenger in the vehicle than when they are alone. This includes behaviors like texting and talking on the phone, drinking alcohol, unsafe speeds, and reckless driving.

Many teens have full schedules that involve studying, extracurricular activities, working a part-time job, and spending time with friends. As a result, they often sacrifice getting enough sleep which can lead to drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is a major cause of teen car accidents. In 2021, drowsy driving killed 684 teenagers in car accidents.

Most states have GDL laws that restrict the number of people a teen can have in their vehicle while they are driving. These laws are there to protect teen drivers and their passengers. However, even if your state does not have GDL laws, it is important to set rules with your teenager about who can ride with them while they are driving. This will help keep them from being distracted by demanding passengers. Demanding passengers can include anyone from siblings who fight while in the car to friends that want to talk about their plans for the weekend.

It is also important to limit the amount of time that a teen spends behind the wheel each week. For example, if a teen drives at night or on weekends they are more likely to get into a crash. According to NHTSA data, about 50 percent of all teen crash deaths occur between 3 p.m. and midnight.

If your teen does need to drive at night or on the weekend, make sure they have a designated driver. This will keep them from being tempted to drink and drive or be dragged into risky behaviors that can put their life and the lives of others at risk. Also, make sure your teen always wears a seat belt when they are in the car. This is one of the most effective ways to save a life and reduce the chances of serious injury or death in an accident.