Keeping Teen Drivers Safe

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year olds, according to most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main factors leading to the high crash rate among teens. Teens’ lack of experience affects their recognition of and response to hazardous situations and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating.

Other major contributing factors to the higher crash risk of young drivers are night driving and teen passengers. Teenagers are involved in more motor vehicle crashes late in the day and at night than at other times of the day. Teens also have a greater chance of getting involved in an accident if other teens are present in the vehicle.

Why does this matter? Rates for auto insurance for teenage drivers are significantly higher than for other drivers because as a group they pose a higher risk of accidents than more experienced drivers. Adding a teenager to an insurance policy can mean a 50 percent or even a 100 percent increase in the parents’ insurance premium.

Below we have included data around the areas where teen drivers have the greatest risks and some information on how insurance companies are trying to help out.

If you have any other questions on adding a teen driver to your auto insurance policy, please feel free to contact our office.


Multiple Passengers: Research shows that when teenage drivers transport teen passengers there is a greatly increased crash risk. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report that showed that the risk of 16- or 17-year old drivers being killed in a crash increases with each additional teenage passenger in the vehicle. The risk increases 44 percent with one passenger; it doubles with two passengers and quadruples with three or more passengers.

Cellphones: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a survey in June 2014 showing that about 41.4 percent of high school students reported that they texted or emailed from behind the wheel at least once during the previous 30 days.

AAA also released a study that found that teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. The study also found that teenage female drivers were almost 10 percent more likely to engage in other distracted behaviors such as reaching for an object (nearly 50 percent more likely than males) and eating or drinking (almost 25 percent more likely). By contrast teenage male drivers were about twice as likely to turn around in their seats and were also more likely to communicate with people outside of the vehicle.

Speeding: According to NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, among drivers involved in fatal crashes, young males are the most likely to be speeding. In 2013 about 35 percent of both 15 to 20-year old male drivers who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, compared to 21 percent of female drivers of the same age group.

Drunk Driving: Underage drinking remains a factor in teenage highway fatalities. Twenty-eight percent of drivers age 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes last year had been drinking some amount of alcohol; 24 percent were alcohol-impaired, which is defined by a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher.

Seatbelt Use: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tracks seatbelt use based on the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which observes occupants driving through intersections controlled by stop signs or stop lights. The 2012 survey found that 80 percent of passenger vehicle occupants age 16 to 24 used seat belts, which is lowest among all age groups.

Distracted Driving: According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, in 2012, 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. Among the distracted drivers 15 to 19 years old, 19 percent were distracted by the use of cellphones at the time of the crash.

Auto Insurance Premium Discounts: Not all hope is lost, though. Many insurance companies are trying to help out in a variety of ways.

The Good Student Discount is generally available to students who have a grade point average of a B or higher. Many companies offer programs that foster safe driving habits, such as online safety courses for young drivers and parents, contracts between young drivers and parents, educational videos and practice driving logs.

Other Insurance companies are also helping to reduce the number of accidents involving teen drivers by subsidizing the cost of electronic devices that parents can install in their cars to monitor the way teens drive and by offering discounts to policyholders with teens who use these devices.