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Transportation Risk Behaviors Among U.S. High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019

Motor vehicle crash injuries are a leading cause of death and nonfatal injury among adolescents. In 2019, 43.1% of U.S. high school students did not always wear a seat belt as a passenger, and 16.7% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol during the past 30 days. Of the approximately 60% of students who drove a car during the past 30 days, 5.4% drove after drinking alcohol, and 39.0% texted or e-mailed while driving at least once during the past 30 days. Also, students engaging in one transportation risk behavior were more likely to engage in other transportation risk behaviors. Reducing risky transportation behaviors among adolescents by using proven strategies (e.g., primary enforcement seat belt laws, publicized sobriety checkpoints, and parent-teen driving agreements) can help prevent crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives.

risk behaviors infographic
CDC Vital Signs
Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths

Reducing motor vehicle crash deaths was one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century for the US. However, more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the US crash death rate was more than twice the average of other high-income countries. In the US, front seat belt use was lower than in most other comparison countries. One in 3 crash deaths in the US involved drunk driving, and almost 1 in 3 involved speeding. Lower death rates in other high-income countries and a high percentage of risk factors in the US suggest that we can make more progress in reducing crash deaths. (July 6, 2016)

CDC Vital Signs. 1 in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives.
Teen Drinking and Driving

The percentage of teens in high school who drink and drive has decreased by more than half since 1991,* but more can be done. Nearly one million high school teens drank alcohol and got behind the wheel in 2011. Teen drivers are 3 times more likely than more experienced drivers to be in a fatal crash. Drinking any alcohol greatly increases this risk for teens. (October 2, 2012)

*High school students aged 16 years and older who, when surveyed, said they had driven a vehicle one or more times during the past 30 days when they had been drinking alcohol.

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Additional Resources
Parents Are the Key to Safe Teen Driving
One of the most important safety features for your teen driver is you.

Parents Are the Key, a campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), helps parents, pediatricians, and communities keep teen drivers safe on the road.




Reducing Risks for Teen Drivers
thumbnail image of the report cover

Safe Kids Worldwide report “Reducing Risks for Teen Drivers” explores how families are managing the risks new drivers face and suggests strategies that families can put into place to help keep teen drivers safe.

Historical Document

The Policy Impact: Teen Driver Safety brief was published in October 2010. Therefore, this web page is provided for reference purposes only. The most current CDC data can be found on the Teen Drivers: Get the Facts page.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety GDL rating system featured on the last page of the Policy Impact document is no longer in use.

Teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable. There are proven policies to improve the safety of young drivers on the road.

Download the Policy Impact: Teen Driver Safety pdf icon[PDF - 8 pages] brief to learn more.