Teen Driver Habits: Research From the CDC

According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that teen drivers are nearly three times as likely to be in a fatal crash as drivers who are over 19 years old. Accidents involving teen drivers can also injure or kill other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. 

Understanding the main causes and risk factors for teen drivers can help parents find new ways to keep their teens safe on the road. At Boller & Vaughan, we’re here to advocate for Wisconsin individuals and their families whose lives are affected by car accidents, especially when they have preventable causes like negligence and alcohol.

Motor Vehicle Injuries And Fatalities In Wisconsin

The CDC states that in 2019, nearly 2,400 teens between the ages of 13 and 19 died in car crashes. That averages out to seven teens every day. Statistics show that teens are at the highest risk for a crash during the first few months after they obtain their driver’s licenses.

Statistics from 2012 (the most recent data available) show that 57 teens died in car crashes in Wisconsin in that year. In the same year, 9.2 percent of all drivers between 16 and 19 years old in Wisconsin were involved in a crash. 

The IIHS uses data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System to study trends of teens and motor vehicle accidents. According to the IIHS, teens accounted for about 7 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2019. In the same year, about 66 percent of teen car accident fatalities were male. 

While motor vehicle accidents cause deaths among teen passengers, teen drivers are statistically far more likely to lose their lives. According to fatality data from 2019 for passenger vehicle occupants aged 16 to 19, 61 percent of those who died were drivers. Additionally, 57 percent of deaths among teenage passengers happened in vehicles that were driven by another teenager. And 13 percent of deaths among passengers of all ages occurred when a teen was driving.

In 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available) motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for females between ages 13 and 19. Car crashes were the second-leading cause of death for male teens (second to suicide).

The Cost Of Teen Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are extremely expensive in terms of medical costs, lost work, and property damage. The CDC indicates that in 2018, car crash fatalities among teens aged 15 to 19 accounted for a total of $4.8 billion dollars in work loss and medical costs.

Common Causes Of Car Accidents Involving Teens

The CDC lists several of the most common factors that can put teens at risk for car accidents:

  • Distracted driving: One survey from 2019 indicated that 39 percent of high school drivers texted or emailed while behind the wheel at least once in the previous 30 days.
  • Inexperience: Many teen drivers don’t have the experience to accurately recognize dangerous situations and are more likely than adults to make mistakes that lead to crashes.
  • Nighttime driving: In 2019, two-fifths of fatal crashes with teen drivers happened between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
  • Weekend driving: Over half of fatal motor vehicle crashes with teen drivers in 2019 happened on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Speeding: Teens are more likely than adults to speed and to drive closer to the car in front of them. A higher percentage of fatal crashes involved speeding for drivers between 15 and 20 years old than those in any other age group.
  • Not wearing a seatbelt: Statistics from 2019 show that nearly half of teen drivers and passengers who died in car accidents were not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Alcohol: Teen drivers have a much higher chance of getting in a crash after drinking than adults who drink and drive. The most recent CDC data available (from 2011) shows that up to 14.5 percent of Wisconsin teens reported drinking and driving. Alcohol impairment significantly increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident for drivers of all ages.

Prevention Tips For Teen Drivers

Parents can play a significant role in reducing the risk of their teens being involved in teen driver training. The first step is making sure that teens understand the biggest risk factors and causes of car crashes. Adults should remind teens to follow these basic safe driving tips:

  • Always wear a seatbelt
  • Don’t text, eat, drink, or do anything else distracting while behind the wheel
  • Don’t drink (or use drugs) and drive
  • Avoid driving when tired
  • Follow speed limit signs

Statistics show that graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs that require teens to gain more driving experience (especially at night) before earning an unrestricted license are very successful at reducing crashes. In fact, GDL systems are linked with a 19 percent reduction in injury crashes and a 21 percent reduction in fatal crashes for 16-year-olds. In Wisconsin, the GDL program limits 16-year-old drivers to no more than one passenger and prohibits them from driving between midnight and 5:00 a.m. for several months after getting their licenses.

Get Expert Legal Help After A Car Accident

Teenage drivers have a higher risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident that causes injuries or death than adults do. In many cases, crashes involving teen drivers are completely preventable because they’re caused by avoidable factors like alcohol, speeding, negligence, or distracted driving.

Unfortunately, many accidents involving teen drivers cause injuries or deaths of pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence or DUI, you may be able to pursue compensation with a personal injury claim.

At Boller & Vaughan, we help victims and their families seek fair compensation after motor vehicle accidents. You can schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and learn what your legal options are.

To contact our office in Madison, Wisconsin, call (608) 268-0268, or use the online form. For more information on teen drivers and personal injury cases, follow Boller & Vaughan on Facebook.


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