As a teenager, there’s nothing more exciting than getting your driver’s license. You practice for months, take the test, and BAM – you officially have your freedom! As a parent of a teenager, however, there’s nothing scarier than your teen getting their driver’s license. Not only does your child now have the keys to your car, but you have now been saddled with an extra expense – adding your teen driver to your car insurance policy.
As adults, we all wonder why car insurance costs so much for ourselves – but we all know one thing for sure: why it costs so much for our teen drivers. Teen drivers get into more accidents than any other section of the population. In fact, individuals aged 15 – 20 years make up 6.7% of the total driving population, but are involved in 20% of all crashes and 14% of motor vehicle deaths. With school back in session and a whole new group of teenagers turning 16, we want to arm you with the best tips for preventing accidents in teen drivers.
Teen driver statistics are grim. The overwhelming majority (75%!) of serious teen driver crashes are due to “critical errors,” with three common errors accounting for nearly half of these crashes:
- Lack of scanning that is needed to detect and respond to hazards
- Going too fast for road conditions
- Being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle
The majority of newly licensed teen drivers exit the learner’s permit period without basic driving skills mastered, leading to a much higher risk of crashing (compared with more experienced drivers). The most common types of crashes in teen drivers involve left turns, rear-end events, and running off the road.
10% of all teen driving fatalities in 2016 involved distracted driving. Even more disturbing, in crashes involving a distracted teen driver, 51% of fatalities were teens themselves. Of the 451 young drivers killed who had alcohol in their systems, 368 (82%) were at .08 g/dL or higher (past the legal driving limit for adults 21+). Of crashes with available seat belt usage information, 47% of teen drivers killed were unrestrained at the time of the crash.
However, there is a bright spot in all of these grisly stats. 12 states (AZ, CA, VA, MA, NV, IL, NJ, MN, GA, FL, VT, and MO) reduced their teen driver-related fatality rates by more than 50% between 2005 – 2006 and 2009 – 2010.
Top Drivers of Teen Car Accidents
There are more than a few reasons why teens are the most likely group to get into a car accident. Here are the top reasons:
- Distracted driving: This includes engaging in any type of activity that takes their eyes and mind off the road, such as using a phone, eating, adjusting the radio, and chatting with passengers.
- Driver inexperience: Teens with less than two years of driving experience do not have the know-how to recognize and react to dangerous situations, and crash risk is particularly high during the first months after earning a license because teenagers are excited to hit the roads unsupervised – yikes!
- Driving under the influence: In general, teenagers are more prone to engage in dangerous behaviors while driving, and almost 25% of teens report that they are willing to ride with a driver who has been drinking (a very scary thought!). Combined with lack of experience, driving while under the influence of alcohol becomes a common cause of teen car accidents and deaths.
- Reckless driving: Male teenagers are especially at risk for being involved in fatal reckless driving accidents. The reckless driving behaviors include making illegal turns or lane changes, tailgating, and street racing.
- Driving with teen passengers: Studies have shown that the presence of teen passengers can increase a young driver’s risk of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and engaging in reckless driving through peer pressure.
- Texting and driving: Texting and driving has become a major cause of auto accidents involving teens. In addition to texting, using social media while driving creates the same level of distraction for young drivers.
Car Accident Prevention Tips
Now that we’ve laid down the facts, let’s talk about some ways that we can prevent teen car accidents.
- Develop the right attitude. It is crucial to instill the right attitude towards driving in teenagers. As a parent, make a commitment to yourself and your child to teach them a responsible driving attitude. You owe it to your child, their passengers, and everyone else on the road.
- Log hours of practice. Take an active role in your child’s practice driving. Make a firm schedule and have them stick to it, and continue this all the way up until their driving exam.
- Slow and steady. When your teen begins driving, avoid high volumes of fast-moving traffic. Once they become more comfortable behind the wheel, you can gradually introduce more difficult driving situations, such as merging onto a highway or driving in the city.
- Cell phones are for emergency use only. Be absolutely clear with your teen to make sure that they understand: they must always pull over to the side of the road if they need to use their cell phone in a driving emergency. Otherwise, it could cost them or someone else their life.
- Stress dangers of drinking and driving. Many teenagers find ways to obtain alcohol before they turn 21 (yes, even your teenager!). Teens may not realize they don’t have to be legally drunk to become risky drivers. Regardless of blood alcohol concentration levels, they are more likely to get into a car accident and become injured or die.
Together, we can reduce these grim teen driver statistics and make the roads a safer place for everyone. If you’re already a Metromile customer and have a new teen driver in your home, add them onto your policy in a snap. If you’re not yet a Metromile customer, consider making the switch or getting a policy for your teenager (who is most likely a low-mileage driver!). The quote is always free, so grab a quote today. As always, stay safe out there and see you on the roads!
Julianne Cronin is a Bay Area freelance writer, content creator, and founder/editor of the women’s lifestyle site, The Wink.