All drivers face risks, but the factor that contributes most to crashes and deaths appears to be inexperience.1Newly licensed drivers, primarily teenagers, have the highest crash rates, but even drivers well into their twenties have higher crash rates than older drivers.
Risk factors for motor vehicle crashes that are particularly elevated among teenage drivers include:
- Teenage passengers2
- Distraction while driving, including from using cell phones and texting3
- Driving at excessive speeds, close following, and other risky driving4
- Drinking and driving. While drinking and driving is not very high among novices, it causes a disproportionate number of fatal crashes. In the later teen years and young adulthood, drinking and driving increases greatly.5
- Driving at night
- Being male. Teenage boys, especially ones with male passengers, are involved in more car crashes than teenage girls. However, the number of females involved in car crashes is increasing.6
- Social norms. Risky driving among teenage drivers is higher among teens who report that their friends drive in a risky manner.4,7
Often, several of these risk factors are present: In particular, teens who text while driving are more likely to have other risky driving behaviors as well, compared to those who don't text while driving. These additional risk factors include drinking and driving and not using a seatbelt.8 In addition, young drivers who own their cars may take more risks. They are more likely to speed, especially at night, and have two or more teen passengers with them.6
A positive factor for teen drivers is the presence of an adult passenger. One study showed that teen crash rates were 75% lower when an adult was in the car.4
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). (2012). Fatality facts 2010: Teenagers. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/teenagers/topicoverview
- Simons-Morton, B. G., Lerner, N., & Singer, J. (2005). The observed effects of teenage passengers on the risky driving behavior of teenage drivers. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 37(6), 973–982.
- Klauer, S. G., Guo, F., Simons-Morton, B. G., Ouimet, M. C., Lee, S. E., & Dingus, T. A. (in press). Distracted driving and crash risk among novice and experienced drivers. New England Journal of Medicine.
- Simons-Morton, B. G., Quimet, M. C., Zhang, Z., Klauer, S. E., Lee, S. E., Wang, J., et al. (2011). The effect of passengers and risk-taking friends on risky driving and crashes/near crashes among novice drivers. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49, 587–593.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2012). Alcohol-impaired driving. Traffic Safety Facts: 2010 Data. (NHTSA Publication No. DOT HS 811 606). Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811606.pdf (PDF - 792K)
- Klauer, S. G., Simons-Morton, B., Lee, S. E., Quimet, M. C., Howard, E. H., & Dingus, T. A. (2011). Novice drivers' exposure to known risk factors during the first 18 months of licensure: The effect of vehicle ownership. Traffic Injury Prevention, 12, 159–168.
- Simons-Morton, B. G., Bingham, C. R., Ouimet, M. C., Pradhan, A., Falk, E., Li, K. -G., et al. (in press). The effect of teenage passengers on simulated risky driving among teenagers: A randomized trial. Health Psychology.
- O'Malley Olsen, E., Shults, R. A., & Eaton, D. K. (2013). Texting while driving and other risky motor vehicle behaviors among US high school students. Pediatrics, 131, e1708–e1715.