Teenage Drivers and Car Accidents: Examining the Risk Factors and Solutions
At the ripe age of 16, one thing that every teen looks forward to is the promise of receiving their driver’s license and getting their first taste of independence on the open road. While this is an exciting time in their life, teenagers are a primary demographic that is prone to both the thrill of newfound freedom and the sobering reality of heightened car accident risks. In fact, nationally, drivers aged 16-17 have the highest crash rates of any age group. This fact alone underscores the urgency of why we should examine the risk factors that link teenage drivers to car accidents, as well as solutions that can make the roads a safer place for every driver.
Before exploring these risk factors and solutions, let’s look at a few other staggering statistics related to teen drivers and car accidents:
- Teen drivers aged 15-19 make up almost 4% of the overall percentage of total drivers.
- In Florida, teen drivers were involved in 60,135 crashes resulting in 279 fatalities and 2,200 serious injuries in 2019.
- Over 7,000 people died in teen-related crashes from 2010–2019 between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
- The fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16-19 year-olds is almost 3 times the rate for drivers aged 20+.
- In 2020 there were 5,037 fatalities involving drivers aged 15-20.
- In a drivers study from 2007-2013, it was found that drivers aged 16-19 were speeding in 79% of single-vehicle crashes.
- In 2020, 1,885 drivers (ages 15-20) died in traffic crashes, a 17% increase from 1,616 in 2019. More than half of the teen drivers were not wearing seat belts.
Understanding The Characteristics of Teenage Drivers and Accidents
Now let’s dive deeper into what factors and distinctive characteristics contribute to the astonishing statistics about teen drivers.
- Lack of experience
Before an adolescent can drive on their own, they can obtain a learner’s permit, which allows them to drive with an adult in the vehicle. While this should be a great time of practice, many parents and guardians might not allow their child to practice often, and even if they do, the driving behaviors that a teen exhibits with an adult in the car, might not be the same when they’re alone.
Operating a vehicle requires a combination of attention, adherence to traffic safety and rules, and fine motor skills. At ages 16-18, adolescents start to become less clumsy and refine their visual-spatial coordination to help judge distance and speed and react quickly when driving. However, the brain doesn’t fully develop until mid to late 20s thus a teenager’s driving ability to react appropriately on the road could be limited.
Lack of experience and developmental factors are two characteristics of teen drivers that can’t be completely controlled, but one element that can make teen drivers more prone to accidents is peer influence. In 2011, The Naturalistic Teen Driving Study was conducted with 42 newly licensed male and female drivers. The study found that some of the participants found having passengers in the car to be distracting. Others admitted to the distraction as well but suggested they knew how to manage it. Some of the specific distractions were described as eye contact, talking, dance parties, and horseplay. These things can start off as minor distractions but ultimately lead to catastrophic or fatal car accidents.
Factors That Lead To Accidents Involving Teenage Drivers
We’ve discussed how distracting peer influence can be to a teen driver, but that isn’t the only form of distracted driving that can lead to an accident. Others include but are not limited to:
- Texting while driving
- Looking in the mirror
- Applying makeup
- Changing the radio or music settings
- Talking on the phone
- Reaching for something in the backseat
- And more.
Any one of these forms of distracted driving might only take a teenager’s focus off the road for a split second, however, sometimes that’s all it takes for an accident to occur. Government research found that drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
Speeding is another factor that can lead to a teenager being involved in a car accident. In fact, in 2021, speeding contributed to 29% of traffic fatalities, and in 2020, 35% of male drivers and 18% of female drivers (ages 15–20 years) who were involved in fatal crashes were found to be speeding.
While underage drinking alone is illegal for teenagers, drinking and driving is an entirely different issue as it puts the teen and other drivers on the road at risk. Below are a few of the astonishing statistics discovered by the 2019 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey regarding teenage drinking and driving:
- 29% of drivers ages 15–20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking, 62% of those drivers had not been wearing a seatbelt.
- 16.7% of U.S. high school students rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol at least once during the 30 days before the survey.
- 5.4% of high school drivers drove after drinking within 30 days before the survey.
A personal injury attorney can help fight for compensation on behalf of anyone who was injured by a distracted, speeding, or drunk teenage driver.
Solutions to Mitigate Teenage Driver Accidents
While teenage driver accidents aren’t an issue that can be stopped overnight, there are possible solutions that could limit or at the very least decrease the amount of teenagers involved in car accidents. A few ideas include:
- More education – in addition to a learner’s permit and driver’s test, additional classes could be implemented into the school curriculum that allows all students the opportunity to study road laws and physically practice driving. This is available at some schools, but usually not to every student of age.
- Parental involvement – like most things, this is an area of a teen’s life that needs parental involvement, guidance, and encouragement, so that they can make smart decisions when they get behind the wheel or step into a friend’s vehicle. Parents could also take advantage of programs and apps that will monitor their child’s cell phone usage while they drive, and even track their speed.
- Technology integration – promote the use of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) for things like emergency braking and lane departure warnings.
- And more.
Call The Florida Law Group
If you’ve been injured by a teen driver that failed to pay attention while on the road, or was under the influence of alcohol or another substance, our car accident injury attorneys can help you pursue compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn about your next steps.