There are few things a teenager looks forward to as much as getting their first car. Even getting access to the family vehicle comes with its own freedom. They can drive themselves to the movies, pick up their date or go camping in the Virginia mountains with friends. When they go off to college, they also have an easy way of getting around. 

Unfortunately, this freedom does come with great risks. Lack of experience and still-developing brains make teens prone to distraction and unsafe driving behaviors. In fact, the CDC estimates that car crashes take the number one spot as the cause of death for teens. In 2017 alone, 300,000 teens ended up in emergency rooms while 2,364 died as a result of motor vehicle crashes. 

Many people have heard the stereotypes that certain drivers are more at risk than others, particularly teenage boys. There is actually a lot of truth to this. Here are the groups CDC identifies as being most at risk and why: 

  • Male drivers between the ages of 16 to 19 years old had higher fatality rates for car crashes than female drivers of the same age range. 
  • Newly licensed 16-year-olds have a 1.5 times higher crash rate than even 18-to-19-year-olds. 
  • When teens drive with other teenagers in the vehicle, the risk of a car crash increases. 

Inexperience is not the only factor that puts teens at risk. Speeding, not wearing their seat belts and driving at nights or on weekends also pose a problem. As is the case with older adults, substance abuse impairs teenage drivers and increases the risk of crashes. Alcohol is not the only culprit; marijuana and other recreational drugs may also impair judgment and slow reflexes. 

Many parents worry about what they can do to protect their teens on the roads. The NHTSA recommends talking to teens about risky driving behavior and how to be safe. It also recommends never offering alcohol to teens as they may feel it is okay to drink away from home too. Reminding teens of the illegalities of this may also prove helpful. Finally, drive home the consequences both in court and within the family.