What are Major Factors in Teen Car Accidents?

Teen Driver

Getting a driver’s license can be an exciting time for a teen, but it can also be a nerve-wracking time for a parent. Studies show that teens aged 16 to 19 are among the highest populations to be injured or killed in a car accident. On average, seven teens die each day, and hundreds more are injured in collisions.

Car accidents are the second leading cause of death of teens in the United States. There are many reasons for teen vehicle accidents; almost all are preventable.

Reasons for Accidents with Teen Drivers

Cellphone use. Teen cellphone use while driving is a primary cause of accidents. Despite every state having laws against using cellphones while driving, it still happens. In fact, a 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that almost 40 percent of high school students had texted or emailed on their phones while driving at least once in the previous 30 days.

Distracted driving. A primary cause of both teen and adult car accidents is distracted driving. Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off driving. Cellphone use is a significant source of distraction, but there are many others, especially for teens:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Loud music
  • Rowdy passengers
  • Horseplay
  • Fiddling with navigation systems or car controls
  • Roadside attractions

Reckless driving and speeding. Teen drivers may speed, tailgate, change lanes dangerously, or otherwise not follow safe-driving rules. Speeding is a top cause of teen accidents, especially among male teens. The combination of speeding and inexperience can be fatal for a young driver.

Inexperience. Teens who have not been driving for a long time may not recognize situations that call for more careful driving. They also are more likely to make decision errors that lead to an accident. Parents should ensure that their teens get as much driving practice in different situations as possible.

Driving with teen passengers. Most states have laws regarding how many teens a new teen driver can have in their car unsupervised. These laws exist for a good reason: studies show that accident risk increases with each additional teen in the car with a teen driver.

Not using seat belts. Teens and young adults have the lowest seat belt usage rates, according to studies. That includes both drivers and passengers. Not wearing a seat belt increases the chance of serious injury or death in an accident. One 2019 study showed that in serious accidents involving teen drivers, almost half of those injured or killed were not wearing a seat belt.

Weekend and nighttime driving. A 2019 study indicated that 40 percent of vehicle deaths among teen drivers and passengers aged 13 to 19 happened between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. More than half occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Reasons for this include more people on the road on weekends, teen inexperience with night driving, and alcohol impairment of both the teen and other drivers.

Alcohol and drug use. Despite being illegal, alcohol and drug use while driving is a common reason for teen car accidents. Impaired driving at any age can lead to serious accidents, but especially among teens. They are inexperienced drinkers and drivers, a combination that can be deadly to them and other motorists.

Drowsy driving. Teens need more sleep than adults. They may be especially drowsy in the early morning or late at night. Falling asleep behind the wheel can happen in a second and lead to severe consequences. A tired teen should not be operating a 4,000-pound vehicle.

Feeling invincible. It is natural for young people to think they will not be harmed and will live forever. Unfortunately, this sense of invincibility can be dangerous. It may cause a young driver to show off, drive recklessly, speed excessively, or otherwise take chances behind the wheel.

Which Teens are Most at Risk for an Accident?

As stated, teens aged 16 to 19 are at the highest risk for an accident. Per mile driven, this age group is almost three times more likely to be in a fatal accident than drivers 20 years of age and older.

In addition, various studies show that the following teens are particularly vulnerable to having a car accident:

Male drivers. Teen males aged 16 to 19 make up the highest percentage of accidents. Male teens are twice as likely as female teens to be in a fatal accident.

Teen drivers with teen passengers. Having teen passengers in the car increases the risk of an accident among unsupervised teen drivers. The more passengers, the higher the risk.

Newly licensed teens. Data show that 16-year-olds are in more accidents than 18-to 19-year-old drivers. Accident risk during the first months of licensure is exceptionally high.

What are Tips for Safer Teen Driving?

Parents and guardians can help teens help themselves. Getting a license does not mean the teen should be immediately allowed to drive like an experienced driver. They need to take so-called baby steps as they navigate the new world of driving, and parents can be a teen’s best resource.

Restrict driving times. A newly licensed teen driver should not be given free rein to drive at all hours. Because most accidents happen on nights and weekends, limit driving during those hours. Maryland helps teens in this regard. The graduated licensing system requires that holders of a provisional license cannot drive between midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless:

  • They are with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and has three years of driving experience.
  • They are driving to or from a job, official school activity, organized volunteer program, or participating in an athletic event or related training session.

Emphasize seat belt use. There is no room for compromise when it comes to teen drivers wearing a seat belt and requiring their passengers to do so as well. Parents need to consistently stress the use of seat belts and execute consequences for not wearing them. In Maryland, using seat belts is the law for drivers and passengers.

Limit passengers. Parents should not allow teen passengers in their child’s car without supervision and in accordance with the law. Maryland’s graduated licensing system does not allow a driver under age 18 with a provisional license to have any passengers under age 18 in the car, except for family members, for their first 151 days of driving.

Stress zero tolerance for alcohol. Parents must repeatedly stress that alcohol or drug use is strictly forbidden. In Maryland, a driver under age 21 may not drive with any measurable alcohol in their system. There are dire consequences for doing so.

Do not allow cellphone use. Although it is difficult for parents to know if their child is using a cellphone while driving, it is not difficult for them to consistently remind them of Maryland law: Drivers under age 18 may not use any wireless communication device while driving, including those that are hands-free.

Practice, practice, practice. It takes years for a driver to experience a variety of driving situations. Parents can help their teen drivers by giving them as much practice as possible before and after getting their licenses. Take them on different types of roads and help them navigate merges, construction, yields, roundabouts, and other circumstances they will encounter on the road.

Keep communicating. While teens may not want to hear it, continually stress driving expectations. Have open conversations about driving and the rules. The more teens hear it, the more they will retain, even if they pretend not to be listening.

State the consequences. Expectations and rules without consequences are not effective. Giving a teen driver a pass for breaking a driving rule is not a good way to help them start their driving career. State the consequences and implement them when needed, consistently. Teens need to know that parents are serious.

Use the car’s safety features. Many cars today come equipped with valuable safety features. If buying a car for a teen driver, look for vehicles with these safety features, including lane change assist, automatic braking and steering, and others. If a teen is driving your car, make sure they keep all the safety features engaged if they can be turned off. Also, ensure the teen knows what a safety alert means and how they should react.

Baltimore Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Those Injured by Teen Drivers

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed because of the negligence of a teen or young adult driver, contact the Baltimore accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We help accident victims recover the compensation they deserve for the damages they incur in a car accident, including medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.