Teen Driving Risks

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Adolescents, as young drivers, lack the experience and ability to perform many of the complex tasks of adult drivers. They are less proficient in detecting and responding to hazards and controlling the vehicle, especially at higher speeds. The risk of having a crash during the learner’s stage is low because the teen is supervised and is generally not driving in high-risk conditions.

Teenagers are more likely to take chances, drive in high-risk conditions, succumb to peer pressures, and overestimate their abilities compared to older drivers, especially when first starting to drive unsupervised, increasing their risk for crashes.

Some of the conditions that make teens more likely to be involved in a collision include:

  • An increased number of passengers in the car
    • The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers.
    • This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
    • Crash risk doubles if you have one peer passenger in the car and actually more than triples with two or more peer passengers.
  • More nighttime driving
    • The majority of nighttime fatal crashes of young beginners take place before midnight.
  • Less use of safety restraints
    • Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use.
    • In 2011, only 54% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.
  • Inexperience
    • Crash risk is particularly high during the first months of licensure
    • Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations.
  • Usage of drugs or alcohol during vehicle operation
    • At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash is greater for teens than for older drivers.
  • Distracted Driving-Cell Phone Use/Texting/ Talking, Surfing the web, Radio use, Eating, Speeding, and Driving Unsafe Vehicles
    • Texting while driving is unsafe under any circumstances.
    • In fact, some research suggests that texting while driving is more than 20 times as dangerous as driving alone.
    • Scarier yet, texting might be an even greater threat for teen drivers than for older drivers, since younger drivers are less likely to stop texting when faced with a difficult driving situation.
    • Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next).
    • The presence of male teenage passengers increases the likelihood of this risky driving behavior.

These distractions are so dangerous because they take your focus off of the road and lower your reaction time for dealing with potential hazards. All increase the risk for crashes and ultimate injury.


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The Ohio AAP’s Teen Safe Driving Initiative was made possible by The Allstate Foundation.