Keep Teen Drivers Safe
Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Almost 2,400 teens aged 13–19 lost their lives in car crashes in 2019. That’s about seven teens a day.
Parents can make a big difference in keeping teen drivers safe. Use a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement to put rules in place that will help your teen stay safe on the road.
- Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens.
- Almost 2,400 teens aged 13–19 lost their lives in car crashes in 2019. That’s an average of seven teens a day.
- Teen drivers aged 16–19 are nearly three times as likelyexternal icon as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash, per mile driven.
- Driver inexperience is a leading contributor to crashes and injuries for teen drivers.
- Crash risk is highest during the first months that teen drivers have their license.
- For all ages, fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night, but the risk is higher for teens.
Make sure that you and your teen driver are aware of the leading causes of teen crashes and injuries.
- Driver inexperience
- Driving with teen passengers
- Nighttime driving
- Not using seat belts
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving
- Impaired driving
In 2019, over 40% of U.S. high school students did not always wear a seat belt when riding in a car driven by someone else. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and using seat belts is an effective way to reduce deaths and injuries in crashes. Buckle up: every person, every trip, every seating position! Learn more.
CDC’s Parents Are the Key campaign helps inform parents about the key role they can—and should—play in protecting their teen drivers. Parents and teens can create Parent-Teen Driving Agreements. These set written expectations and establish a commitment to safe driving practices, such as not engaging in risky behaviors while driving or riding in cars.
Motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and parents can make a big difference in keeping teen drivers safe. Your guidance—and helpful, calm advice—can stay with your teen long after he or she takes the car out alone.
Take these steps to help keep your teen safe on the road:
- Ride along with your teen for at least 30–50 hours. Teens lack driving experience; therefore, the more they practice, the better.
- Watch closely and make suggestions on how your teen can improve.
- Practice with your teen at different times of day, in different kinds of weather, and in heavy and light traffic.
- Restrict your teen’s nighttime driving, and make sure your teen is off the road by 9 or 10 pm for at least the first six months he or she has a license.
- Limit your teen to zero or one young passenger for at least the first six months he or she has a license.
- Discuss your rules of the road with your teen. Create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that puts these rules in writing to set clear expectations and limits. Don’t forget to update the agreement as your teen’s experience increases.
- Require your teen to wear a seat belt on every trip. It is the simplest way to prevent car crash injuries and deaths.
- Be a good role model for your teen and always buckle up!
In addition, consider safety features first and foremost when choosing a car for your teen. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) publishes a list of affordable vehiclesexternal icon that meet important safety criteria for teens. IIHS also recently released a research paperexternal icon explaining the benefits of newer vehicle technologies for teen drivers – such as crash avoidance features and teen-driver-specific technologies. They also examined the potential of these technologies to dramatically reduce teen crashes and associated injuries and deaths.
- Buckle your seat belt. Seat belts are proven to reduce the risk of death and serious injuries when crashes occur by about halfexternal icon.
- Do not drink any alcohol or use any drugs before getting behind the wheel. These activities are dangerous for any driver but are particularly dangerous for young, inexperienced drivers.
- Put all distractions aside. Make sure your cell phone is off and away. If you need to make a phone call, pull off to a safe location on the side of the road. Even hands-free technology mentally distracts you from driving, and your full attention is needed to drive safely. If you need to use your phone for navigation directions, set it up before you get on the road and pull over to a safe location on the side of the road if you need to make changes. Don’t text or use social media while driving!
- Take the time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle, especially if it is a vehicle you have never driven before. Know where important vehicle features are located, such as the turn signals, windshield wipers, and hazard lights. Adjust the mirrors and steering wheel if necessary. Know the vehicle’s safety features and how to operate it safely. Determine if your vehicle has any advanced safety technologies or driver assistance technologiesexternal icon such as a backup camera or lane departure warnings.
- CDC’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey MMWR Surveillance Supplement, article 9: Transportation Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019
- CDC’s Parents Are the Key to Safe Teen Drivers campaign
- CDC’s Teen Driver Safety Website
- CDC’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) System Planning Guide
- CDC’s State-Specific Fact Sheets on Costs of Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths (which include recommendations that could strengthen each state’s GDL system)
- CDC Study: Does geographic location matter for transportation risk behaviors among U.S. public high school students?external icon
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS):