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What can be done to reduce car crashes among teen drivers?

Teen drivers are both youthful and inexperienced. Immaturity, impulsivity and other factors make it harder for teens to drive safely. Moreover, lack of experience in driving can increase the overall chances of a collision. This may be why motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers.

Night driving, additional teens in the vehicle

According to the Insurance Information Institute, teens are more likely to be in accidents later in the day and at night. Further, they are more likely to get into a crash if they have other teens in the car with them, according to two separate studies. In fact, each additional teen passenger in the car substantially increases the crash rate among teen drivers.

Therefore, some states have passed laws regulating the time of day teens can be in charge of vehicles and the number of teen passengers they can carry.

Graduated driver's license laws and their effects

All 50 states now have a graduated driver's license requirement. These require a rigorous period of learning before a new driver can get a license with full privileges. Stage 1 is a learner's permit, where the teen must have a licensed adult in the car. It also requires a vision test, a road rules test, seat belt use by all occupants of the vehicle, zero alcohol and six months without any crashes or traffic violations.

Stage 2 comes after the completion of stage 1. It generally includes advanced driver education, a behind-the-wheel road test, night driving only with a licensed adult driver, and 12 months with no crashes or traffic violations. Stage 3 is a full license.

These laws appear to have had a profound effect. According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the death rate among 16-year-old drivers between 1996 and 2010 dropped by 68%.

Older teens may feel invulnerable despite distractions

In 2017, a Liberty Mutual study discovered that older teens tend to engage in more dangerous driving behaviors than younger ones. For example, 75% of high school seniors said they felt fully confident in their driving ability now that they had been on the road for a couple of years. Over half reported a car accident or a near miss, compared to only 34% of sophomores.

Teens are also vulnerable to distraction and may not be fully aware that technology can be dangerously distracting. Multiple studies have found cellphone distraction to be especially pervasive among teens.

As a society, we're working to reduce the rate of teen car crashes and fatalities. If you're the parent of a teen, it can help to set clear expectations around driving behavior.

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