Teen Drivers

According to the latest data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2016 marked the third year in a row that teen motor vehicle occupant fatalities increased in the United States. Fatalities in 2016 totaled 2,416, compared to 2,380 in 2015. Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the number one cause of death for U.S. teens. NHTSA also estimates the total number of deaths among teens ages 13 to 19, including pedestrian and bicycle incidents, was 2,820 in 2016 and is equivalent to more than seven deaths per day.

Crashes involving young drivers (15 to 20 years old) impact people of all ages. In 2016, the number of people dying in crashes involving at least one young driver totaled 4,853, a 2% increase over the 2015 total of 4,744. This chart shows young driver fatalities account for only 39% of the overall fatalities associated with young driver crashes. In 2016, there were 1,908 young driver fatalities, 1,018 fatalities among passengers of young drivers, 1,338 fatalities to occupants of all other vehicles, and 589 non-occupant fatalities.

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Source: National Safety Council (NSC) analysis of NHTSA data.


Car crashes involving teens and young drivers are tragic not only because they severely injure and kill people in the prime of their lives, but because they are preventable. Driver inexperience is the root cause of these crashes. NSC believes parent involvement is the key. DriveitHOME.org is a free resource from NSC created by and for parents. After identifying the risks their teens face, parents can learn concepts and methods that will help their child become more experienced and safer behind the wheel, like Graduated Driver Licensing.


Graduated Driver Licensing

A strategy shown to help prevent young driver crashes is passage and enforcement of state GDL programs, which allow for a gradual phasing in of full driving privileges using a three-step process:

  •      Initial learner’s permit phase
  •      Intermediate, or provisional, license phase
  •      Full licensure phase

One of the important components of GDL programs is a restriction on night driving. While only about 10% of trips driven by 16- and 17-year-olds occur from 9 to 11:59 p.m., 17% of their fatal crashes occur at this time. Even more dramatically, while less than 1% of teen trips occur from 12 a.m. to 5:59 a.m., 13% of their fatal crashes occur at this time. Unfortunately, most state GDL programs allow some night driving; only five states (Idaho, Kansas, New York, North Carolina and North Dakota) prohibit provisional license holders from driving after 9 p.m.

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Source: Shults, R.A. & Williams, A.F. (2016). Graduated Driver Licensing Night Driving Restrictions and Drivers Aged 16 or 17 Years Involved in Fatal Night Crashes – United States, 2009-2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016; 65:725-730.