Keep Teen Drivers Safe

Image of a teen driving with her father

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. About 2,800 teens 13–19 years of age lost their lives in car crashes in 2020. That’s about eight 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.

Facts About Teen Driver Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.
  • About 2,800 teens ages 13–19 lost their lives in car crashes in 2020. That’s an average of eight teens a day.
  • Teen drivers ages 16–19 have a fatal crash rate almost three times as high as drivers ages 20 and older, per mile driven.
  • Driver inexperience is a leading contributor to crashes and injuries for teen drivers.
  • Crash risk is particularly high during the first months that teen drivers have their license.
  • Nighttime driving is riskier than daytime driving for all ages. However, nighttime driving is even more dangerous for teen drivers.
Eight Danger Zones for Teen Drivers

Make sure that you and your teen driver are aware of the leading causes of teen crashes and injuries.

  1. Driver inexperience
  2. Driving with teen or young adult passengers
  3. Nighttime driving
  4. Not using seat belts
  5. Distracted driving
  6. Drowsy driving
  7. Reckless driving
  8. 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 seat! Learn more.

National Teen Driver Safety Week occurs every year in mid-October. Take advantage of the week by learning more about how to keep teens safe on the road. 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.

Parents: How You Can Help Keep Teens Safe on the Road

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 they take the car out alone.

Take these steps to help keep your teen safe on the road:

  • Ride along with your teen for as many hours as possible. Teens lack driving experience. They will become better drivers as they get more practice driving under your supervision.
  • 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 they have a license.
  • The best practice is for your teen to have no teen or young adult passengers for at least the first six months they have a license. If that’s not possible, limit your teen to just one teen or young adult passenger.
  • 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, safety features are the first thing you should think about when choosing a car for your teen. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) publishes a list of affordable vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teens. IIHS also recently released a research paper 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.

Teens: Here are the Top 4 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Get Behind the Wheel
  • Buckle your seat belt. Seat belts are proven to reduce the risk of death and serious injuries by about half when crashes occur.
  • Do not drink any alcohol or use any drugs before getting behind the wheel. These activities are dangerous for any driver but are even more dangerous for young, inexperienced drivers.
  • Put all distractions aside. Distractions include any activity that takes your attention away from driving safely. Examples include texting, talking on a cell phone (even hands-free), interacting with navigation systems, eating, and putting on makeup.
    • Make sure your cell phone is off and away. Don’t text or use social media while driving!
    • Pull off to a safe location on the side of the road if you need to make a phone call. Even hands-free technology mentally distracts you from driving, and your full attention is needed to drive safely.
    • Set up your phone’s or car’s navigation directions before you get on the road. Pull over to a safe location on the side of the road if you need to make changes.
  • 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 technologies such as a backup camera or lane departure warnings.