Research



How many teens die annually from crashes?

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for all 15- to 20-year olds. There were 4,347 young drivers (ages 15- to 20-years old) involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2011, and 1,987 young drivers were killed.1 Mile for mile, the fatal crash rate for 16-17 year-olds is about 3 times the rate for drivers ages 20 and older, and crash risk is highest at age 16.2

Young drivers think they know everything but underestimate the dangers of driving. Crashes among young drivers are high largely because of their immaturity combined with driving inexperience.3

What role does alcohol play?

Alcohol is a factor in many crashes involving a motor vehicle. One-third (32 %) of young drivers (ages 15- to 20- years old) killed in motor vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol concentration of .01 or higher in 2011, which means the driver killed had been drinking alcohol.4 Crash risk is higher for young drivers when they drink alcohol and drive, even though they’re less likely than adults to drive impaired. The combination of drinking and driving is made worse by teenagers' relative inexperience both with drinking and with driving.5 Alcohol involvement in motor vehicle crashes is higher among males than females. In 2011, 28 % of the young male drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, compared to 16 % of female drivers.6

Learn more about underage drinking: .

What role does distraction play?

In 2011, 11 % of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to be distracted at the time of the crash.7  Cell phone use for talking or texting is the most dangerous distraction. According to national daytime observational surveys the federal government conducted in 2010, young drivers are more likely than other drivers to talk on hand-held cellphones while driving.8

Cell phone use isn’t the only distraction that young drivers need to be aware of. Common distractions include the radio, looking up directions, setting the GPS, eating food, having too many passengers/friends in the car, or anything that takes your eyes off the road. Fatal crash risk for teen drivers increases incrementally with 1, 2 and 3 or more passengers.9

1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts, “Young Drivers,” 2013

2 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Q and A, How do teenage crash rates compare with rates among drivers of other ages?, 2013

3 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Q and A, Why is teenage crash involvement so high?, 2013

4 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts, “Young Drivers,” 2013

5 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Q and A, Is alcohol an important factor in teenagers' crashes?, 2013

6 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts, “Young Drivers,” 2013

7 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website on distracted driving

8 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Distracted Driving, Q and A, 2013

9 Chen, L-H.; Baker, S.P.; Braver, E.R.; and Li, G. 2000. Carrying passengers as a risk factor for crashes fatal to 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Journal of the American Medical Association 283:1578-82