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Fatal Teen Crashes – The Reality

Parents: Protect your teen driver from crashes, the leading killer of teens.

Chart: Number of 15-19 year old males and females killed in crashes, 2000-2006.Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group. Thankfully, teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can keep young drivers safer on the road.

Know Teen Drivers' Risks

Parents are concerned about protecting their teen's health and safety. But not everyone realizes that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, claiming the lives of about eight teen a day. In addition, more than 350,000 teens are treated each year in emergency departments for injuries resulting from a crash.

Among teen drivers, those at especially high risk of crashing are:

  • Males: From 2000 to 2006, the number of male drivers and passengers ages 15 to 19 who were killed in crashes was higher (12,479) than the number of female drivers and passengers who were killed (6,579).
  • Teens driving with teen passengers: Driving with teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
  • Driving at night: The crash risk for teens driving at night is nearly twice as high as the crash risk during the day.
  • Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is highest during the first year that teens are eligible to drive.

Take Steps for Your Teen Driver's Safety

Fortunately, there are proven ways to reduce teen drivers' risk on the roads. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, combined with parental management, can help keep teens safe behind the wheel.

If your teen is a beginning driver, keep the following in mind:

Proven Steps Save Lives. Practice driving as often as you can with your teen. The more experience he or she has behind the wheel, the safer they'll drive. Make sure your new driver and their passengers always wear seat belts. Prohibit driving when crashes are more likely to occur—at night and when there are other teens in the car, and enforce zero tolerance for alcohol and driving. And be sure to learn and enforce your state's teen driving laws—you can find them on the State-Specific GDL Information page.

A Parent-Teen Driving Agreement Sets the Rules of the Road. Discuss your rules of the road with your teen. Talk about why they are important to follow, as well as consequences for breaking them. Believe it or not, your children listen to you, particularly when they know you have their best interests at heart. Reinforce your talks by working with your teen to create a parent-teen driving agreement.

Parents Must Lead by Example. Don't wait until your teen is old enough to drive to start modeling good driving behaviors. If you talk on the phone, text, speed, drive without your seat belt, or drive after drinking alcohol so might your teen.

chart: Teen motor vehicle occupant deaths by state, 2000-2006 (ages 15-19)

Data source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2009) [cited 2010 Oct 14]. Available from URL:

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: October 22, 2010
  • Page last updated: October 22, 2010
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs