Teenage Car Accident Statistics in the U.S.

Learn how teenage car accidents are likely to happen, from distracted driving to nighttime driving, including statistics on teen driving fatalities.

Getting a driver’s license is a critical milestone for U.S. teens. While teens view their licenses as a step toward freedom, they don’t always appreciate the seriousness of the responsibility of driving.

Fatal crash rates among teen drivers are higher than those of old drivers, primarily due to their lack of experience, driving skills, and decision-making abilities. They make mistakes, drive too fast, and are easily distracted, particularly when friends are with them.

This article will review statistics about the causes and results of teenage car accidents, including distracted driving crashes and risk factors that increase the probability of teen motor vehicle crashes.

Car crashes are 2nd leading cause of teen deaths

Notable Statistics:

  • In 2017, 4,750 people were killed in car accidents involving teenage drivers.
  • Nine percent of all teen car crash fatalities in 2018 involved distracted driving.
  • Of teenage drivers killed in car crashes in 2017, 440 (24%) had alcohol in their systems.
  • In 2018, nearly twice as many male teen drivers were killed in car crashes than females.

Fatal Car Accidents Involving Teen Drivers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports motor vehicle crashes as the second leading cause of death for American teens.

In 2018, just shy of 2,500 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19 were killed, and approximately 285,000 went to emergency rooms for injuries sustained in car accidents. In other words, about seven teens a day were killed by car crashes, and hundreds more were injured.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s 2017 fact sheet on young drivers, the United States had 225.3 million licensed drivers in 2017. While only 12.1 million (5.4%) drivers were between the ages of 15 and 20, 8.3% of drivers involved in fatal crashes were young drivers in this age group.

In 2017, 1,830 drivers who were 15 to 20 years old died in motor vehicle crashes, and 4,750 people were killed in passenger vehicle accidents involving teen drivers. However, total fatalities from teen car crashes have decreased by 26% from 2008 to 2017, dropping from 6,452 in 2008.Changes in teen driver fatalities 2008 - 2017

Distracted Teen Driving Statistics

There’s no denying that texting and driving and other forms of distracted driving can be dangerous. Unfortunately, inexperienced teen drivers are among the most easily distracted by a cell phone or a friend.

Despite the undisputed danger, a nationwide Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the CDC in 2019 found that 39% of high school students who drove admitted to texting or emailing while driving at least once in the 30 days before the survey.

NHTSA reports that 9% of all teen motor vehicle crash deaths in 2018 involved distracted driving, and 7% of people killed in distraction-affected crashes were teenagers.

Here are more statistics showing the impact of distracted driving on teen crashes in 2018:

Percent of fatalities involving distracted teens

Teen Drunk Driving Accidents

BAC of teen drunk drivers

Even though the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, alcohol plays a large role in teen car crashes.

According to the NHTSA, 440 (24%) of the teenage drivers who were killed in car crashes in 2017 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of 0.01% or higher, and 362 (20%) had BACs of 0.08% or higher.

This means that 82% of teenage drivers who had alcohol in their system when they were killed had BACs over the legal driving limit for people 21 and up (0.08% BAC).

Alcohol involvement in fatal crashes is generally higher among male teen drivers than females. In 2017, 20% of the young male drivers involved in fatal accidents had some alcohol in their systems, compared with 15% of young female drivers.

In response to the CDC’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 5.4% of U.S. high school drivers admitted to drinking alcohol before driving sometime in the 30 days before the survey. Drunk driving was more common among students with lower grades and older, male, and Hispanic drivers.

Risk Factors for Teen Drivers

According to the CDC, various driving behaviors can increase the likelihood of teenage car accidents and fatalities. In addition to distracted driving and alcohol use, each of the following is a risk factor for young people.Risk factors for teen drivers

Males

In 2018, death rates for male teen drivers were nearly twice as high as for female drivers.

Teen Passengers

When an unsupervised teen driver has teenage passengers in the vehicle, the crash risk significantly increases. The amount of risk rises with each additional teen passenger in the car.

Newly Licensed Teens

The risk of a teen car accident is exceptionally high in the first few months of licensure. Due to their inexperience, new drivers are less likely to appreciate or recognize potential dangers on the road. Teens with limited driving experience are also more likely than older drivers to make significant errors in judgment that can cause serious accidents.

Weekend and Nighttime Driving

In 2018, 37% of teen car accident deaths, including both passengers and drivers, occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and 52% of deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Seat Belt Use

Teenagers and young adults typically have the lowest rates of seat belt use. In 2018, almost half of teen car crash fatalities were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Speeding

In 2018, 30% of male teen drivers and 18% of female drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding. These were the highest rates of all age groups.

While learning to drive is an integral part of growing up, young drivers and their parents should consider these risk factors, practice safe driving, and take precautions to avoid teenage motor vehicle accidents.

If you or a teen you love have been involved in a car accident, you can contact a local personal injury attorney to schedule a free consultation.

Amy Grover is a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, then passing the bar exam in 2014, Amy began her diverse career as a practicing attorney. Amy has a range of experience in the legal field, including work with the Department... Read More >>