Every age from infancy to adulthood brings its own unique fears and anxieties for both the child and the parent. In adolescence, teen driving is one parents everywhere typically dread. The risks suddenly seem much more intense, and teenagers’ lives are literally placed in their own hands instead of ours. Fortunately, many of the risk factors are preventable. The facts in this article may be frightening, but the awareness and preventative measures will hopefully provide some peace of mind knowing you are instilling safe driving habits.
Facts & Statistics
- In the US, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of deaths for teens.
- Every day approximately 7 teenagers (13-19 years old) die from motor vehicle crash injuries, and even more are injured.
- Over 50% of children (8-17 years old) who die in motor vehicle crashes are killed as passengers of drivers younger than 20 years old.
- Teens (16-19 years old) are the highest risk age group, of all ages, for motor vehicle crashes.
- Teens are at highest risk within the first few months of getting their license.
- Teens with ADHD have a 36% higher risk of crash, especially those who text while driving.
- Inexperience: Driving is a new skill that involves complex coordination of motor, visual and cognitive components.
- Passengers: Teen/young adult passengers can increase risk. This is due to distraction and peer pressure, such as speeding and drug or alcohol use. Teenage males with passengers are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
- Speed: Although this is an independent risk factor for all ages, teenage drivers are more likely to speed. They are also likely to engage in risky traffic behaviors such as running “orange” lights and not following at a safe distance.
- Impaired driving: This affects all driving ages, but teens are particularly vulnerable. Impaired driving may involve alcohol, marijuana, and/or drug use, including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
Drowsy driving:Teens are at risk of fatigue. Most are not getting adequate sleep when biologically their bodies need more sleep. Signs of drowsy driving include:
- Yawning or frequent blinking or jerking awake
- Drifting out of your lane or driving onto rumble strips
- Missing turns or exits or traffic signs
- Inability to remember the last few miles driven
Nighttime driving:Many fatal teen crashes are at nighttime. Risks include limited visibility, drowsiness, and “recreational” factors such as the likelihood to have passengers, drug/alcohol use, and risky traffic behaviors.
Not Wearing Seat belts:Seat belts save lives, with 45% reduced risk of death when in a front seat. It is also the law.
Distracted driving:This can come in different forms and is basically any activity that takes the focus off driving.
- Cognitive distraction (thinking about other things)
- Manual (hands not on the wheel)
- Visual (eyes not on the road)
Cell phones:Cell phones are especially dangerous as they create cognitive, manual and visual distractions. Vehicle recordings in teens showed that looking away from the road for longer than 2 seconds were associated with 5 times the risk of a crash/near crash.
PArent Tips, Tools & Talking Points
Lead By Example
Even from a young age, our children begin to model our behaviors. This is true for safe driving practices too! No distracted driving, drowsy driving, cell phone or drug/alcohol use. Obey traffic laws, avoid aggressive behavior, minimize road rage, and wear your seatbelt.
“Practice makes better.”
Driving is a skill, and as with learning new skills, mistakes will be made. Be calm, patient, and ensure your teen has as much supervised experience as possible. Going beyond the required supervised hours will only help your teen to be a safer driver. Allow them to be comfortable with daytime driving practice before advancing to nighttime driving practice.
Parent tips for guiding their teen driver, click here.
Familiarize yourself with your state’s Graduated Driving License (GDL) laws.
Talk to your teen about safe driving and traffic rules. Teach them the basics of routine car maintenance and safety (oil changes, windshield wiper changes and how to refill fluid, how to safely change a tire or pull over for assistance).
Have conversations with your teen about drug, alcohol and medication use. Discuss prescription and OTC medications that may make them sleepy. If you are not sure about a medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Consider waiting until your teen driver is more experienced before you allow them to drive with passengers. Some states have laws regarding this.
Teens need approximately 9-9.5 hours of sleep per night. Encourage adequate sleep and good sleep hygiene. Click here for additional info on sleep in adolescents.
Regardless, if you utilize assistance technologies or apps, DO have a conversation about the dangers of cell phone use during driving, and develop and discuss rules.
- Driver assistance technologies: If your vehicle is equipped with these safety features, ensure your teen understands their function. Distracted driving apps: There are various apps and programs to minimize distracted driving as well as for hands free driving. For those with iPhones and iOS 15, Driving Focus is available .
- GPS tracking: Some insurance companies offer GPS monitoring devices to track driving patterns and habits.
Safe Driving Contracts
- CDC & American Academy of Pediatrics, Parent-Teen Contract
- CDC/Parents are the Key, Parent-Teen Contract
- Create a Personalized Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
- AAA Parent-Teen Driving Contracts
- National Safety Council- New Driver Agreement, Parent-Teen Driving Contract
Did You Know?
|“Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
-National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Insurances often offer discounts if your child takes extra courses for safe driving and/or for using safety technology/monitoring devices. Ask yours what they offer.
Ohio has restrictions for teen drivers. For the first year, newly licensed teens are not allowed more than one non-family member as a passenger and may not drive between midnight and 6am.
See more details - CLICK HERE
In Ohio, texting while driving is not permitted
See more details - CLICK HERE
Additional Parent Resources
Alderman EM, Johnston BD; COMMITTEE ON ADOLESCENCE; COUNCIL ON INJURY, VIOLENCE, AND POISON PREVENTION. The Teen Driver. Pediatrics. 2018;142(4):e20182163. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2163
Yellman MA, Bryan L, Sauber-Schatz EK, Brener N. Transportation Risk Behaviors Among High School Students - Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019. MMWR Suppl. 2020;69(1):77-83. Published 2020 Aug 21. doi:10.15585/mmwr.su6901a9
Burrell TD, Mistry KB. Safety: Texting while Driving. Pediatr Rev. 2018;39(7):372-374. doi:10.1542/pir.2017-0176
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) & National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)