Teen drivers more likely to crash

New teen drivers ages 16-17 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

This finding comes in the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 15 percent compared to the rest of the year. Over the past five years, more than 1,600 people have been killed in crashes involving inexperienced teen drivers during this deadly period. “Statistics show that teen crashes spike during the summer months because teens are out of school and on the road,” said Dr. David Yang, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director. “The Foundation’s research found that inexperience paired with greater exposure on the road can create a deadly combination for teen drivers.”

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest study, “Rates of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries, and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age,” analyzed crash rates per mile driven for all drivers and found that for every mile on the road, drivers ages 16-17 years old are:

  • 3.9 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be in a crash
  • 2.6 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a fatal crash
  • 4.5 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a crash
  • 3.2 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a fatal crash

Fatal teen crashes are on the rise. The number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes increased more than 10 percent from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2015 crash data, the latest data available.

To reverse this alarming trend, AAA urges parents to help reduce the number of deadly crashes on the road by getting more involved and talking to their teens about the dangers of risky behavior behind the wheel.

“Parents are the front line of defense for keeping our roads safer this summer,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. Three factors that commonly result in crashes for teen drivers are:

Distraction

Not paying attention to driving plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports. The top distractions for teens include talking to other passengers in the vehicle and interacting with a smart phone.

Not Buckling Up

In 2015, the latest data available, 60 percent of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a seat belt. Teens who buckle up significantly reduce their risk of dying or being injured in a crash.

Speeding

Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. A recent AAA survey of driving instructors found that speeding is one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive.

To keep roads safer this summer, AAA encourages parents to:

  • Have conversations with their teens early and often about distractions and speeding.
  • Teach by example and minimize risky behavior when driving.
  • Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.

Teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.