Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury and death for young drivers in the US. Although there have been many efforts at the state level to reduce this; it continues to cause thousands of injuries and death every year. According to the most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, in 2014 there were over 32,000 traffic fatalities and an additional 2.3 million injured. Factors that have the largest effect on these numbers are drunk driving, speeding, and not wearing a seat belt. While these actions are taken by nearly every driver at some point, it is especially problematic for young drivers who lack experience and necessary skills to gauge the danger of situations around them.
According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Per mile driven, teens are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than someone over than 20. Because of their lack of experience, teen drivers have a low risk perception and are therefore more inclined to take risks. This results in them often speeding and not allowing low enough stopping distance. For both men and women teens, they have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation than any other age group. They also have the lowest seat belt usage compared to all other demographics. These combined with their lack of inexperience and recklessness explains why they are the age group most likely to be involved in an automobile accident and with the highest fatalities.
Lack of experience has a huge impact in an individual’s skill level and being able to recognize hazardous situations. Although drivers’ education and a driving permit is required to receive a license, often this is not enough to fully prepare young drivers before they get their license. Another widespread exacerbating factor is that teens often like to drive with other teens as passengers, such as their friends and classmates. Studies show this contributes even more to distracted driving, which is one of the main causes for driving accidents associated with teenagers 15-19. Other leading causes of teen crashes nighttime driving, not using seat belts, reckless driving, drowsy driving, and driving under the influence. All these causes boil down to the facts that often teens lack experience and the maturity to make responsible decisions in driving situations. This incorrectly asses how failing to take part in safety precautions such as wearing their seatbelt or obeying the speed limit can jeopardize them and their passengers.
The CDC recommends 3 key proven methods to help teens become safe drivers. First is to wear seat belts: of all teens that died in traffic accidents, over half we not wearing seat belts. Seat belts are an easy way to be safer when driving. Another way is to avoid drinking and driving. Enforcing the legal drinking age and zero blood alcohol tolerance is recommended. Not only is it illegal to not follow the minimum drinking age, but driving under the influence also affect one’s ability to drive and to navigate successfully, regardless of age. Finally a comprehensive graduated driver licensing program or GDL can contribute to greater safety because it helps the new driver build the skills they need to driver and better prepares them to recognize dangerous situations. This was introduced in 1996 and since then every state has adopted GDL laws. The CDC recommends adopting a more comprehensive program. As of now once the teen turns 18 they no longer are required to participate in the GDL program and can get their license right after passing the driving test, however, this often leaves many individuals with incomplete driving skills and even less experience because they are not required to fulfill minimum driving mile requirements.