Teen Driving Risks

Teens crash more than any other age group and are usually at fault.


Teen Passengers

Crash risks are nearly double with one passenger and increase even more with each additional passenger. This is true for all teens, even those who are responsible and trustworthy.

Recommendation Initially, limit your teen to NO teen passengers, and gradually increase passenger privileges as your teen gains more driving experience.

Nighttime Driving

The most severe teen crashes occur at night. Night driving is more dangerous because of limited visibility, fatigue, and drinking drivers on the road.

With a Level 2 License, teens cannot drive from midnight to 5 a.m. However, many serious teen driver crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Recommendation Set an early evening restriction for your teen's unsupervised driving – sundown during the first months with a license and gradually later as your teen gains more driving experience.

Bad Weather

Bad weather makes driving more dangerous for all drivers. However, teen drivers do not have enough experience to react safely in bad weather.

Recommendation Limit your teen's driving in bad weather. Allow unsupervised driving only in good weather during the first months with a license and gradually allow unsupervised driving in more severe weather as your teen gains more experience

High Speeds and High-Speed Roads

As speed increases, vehicles respond more quickly to steering and more slowly to braking. Inexperienced drivers may make abrupt changes, which can make the vehicle go out of control. It takes time to learn to how to handle a vehicle at high speeds. High-speed crashes have higher crash forces and are more likely to result in severe injuries.

Recommendation Limit your teen's unsupervised driving to familiar, lower speed roads for the initial months of licensure, and gradually allow unsupervised driving on higher speed roads as your teen gains more experience.

Driving Inexperience

Inexperience is the single most important risk factor for teen crashes. Teens show the greatest improvement in safety within the first year and several thousand miles of independent driving – but keep improving for years.

Recommendation Limit driving under high risk conditions until your teen has a great deal of independent driving experience under low risk conditions.

Risky Driving Behaviors

Teenagers engage in more risky driving behavior than any other age group. Teens with strict restrictions engage less in risky driving behavior.

Recommendation Frequently emphasize the requirement that your teen follow all traffic laws and set strict limits on high-risk driving conditions.

Lack of Seat Belt Use

Seat belts reduce the risk of serious injury in a crash by 45%. Wearing seat belts is required by law however, teens wear seat belts less than any other age group.

Recommendation Require seat belt use for your teen driver and all passengers at all times.

Alcohol and Drugs

Any amount of alcohol or drugs produces impairment in teen drivers – and is illegal. This combination is deadly.

Recommendation Ban your teen from driving after using alcohol or other substances and from riding with anyone who has used alcohol or other substances.

Unsafe Vehicles for Teen Drivers

Your teen has the greatest chance of a crash of anyone in the family, so have your teen drive the safest vehicle available.

Recommendation Have your teen drive a mid- to full-size vehicle with a small engine and airbags. Parents should not let their teens get their “own” vehicles until they gain a lot more unsupervised driving experience.

Responsible Teen Myth

Myth My teen is responsible and would not drive dangerously, so is not at risk.

Fact All teen drivers are at higher risk because they lack driving experience and judgment that only come with time and driving.

Experienced Driver Myth

Myth My teen had plenty of practice driving during driver education and the 50 hours of required practice so is not at risk.

Fact Driver education and practice driving are only the beginning of learning to drive – becoming a safe driver, just like any skill takes time, practice and experience.

Car Ownership Myth

Myth By having a car, my teen will learn to take responsibility.

Fact Teens with their own vehicles are at greater risk because they drive more and have fewer restrictions placed on them.

Driving with a Friend Myth

Myth It would be safer if my teen had a friend in the car, in case something happens.

Fact Crash risks are nearly double with one passenger and increase even more with each additional passenger. Even “responsible” friends in the car can be distracting to a teen driver.

Driving with Siblings Myth

Myth Sibling passengers are safer than other young passengers.

Fact All young passengers are potentially distracting and at risk with a new driver – siblings are not safer.

Licensing Laws Myth

Myth The licensing requirements and driving laws for teens (also known as the GDL program) are sufficient to protect teen drivers.

Fact The GDL program is good, but is just a MINIMUM. Effective parent-imposed restrictions that go beyond the laws, increase teen safety.

Other Parents Myth

Myth Other parents do not set limits on their teens’ driving.

Fact Nearly all parents DO set limits, and teens appreciate knowing exactly what is expected of them. The stronger the limits, the better the safety outcomes.