Did you know that teen crashes tend to be different than crashes for most other drivers? They're more frequent, too. Teens have the highest crash risk of any age group per mile traveled.
The list below shows risk factors observed in fatal crashes among 16-year-olds. And there's no denying it – it's scary. But there's good news, too. Many involve controllable choices that can tip the odds in your teen's favor. Here are some areas to watch:
Driver error. Compared with older drivers' fatal crashes, those of 16-year-olds more often involve driver error, often on two-lane curving roads, with narrow shoulders.
Takeaway: Map out trips to take the easiest route, even if it adds a mile or two.
Distractions in the car. With smartphones, texting, loud music, eating food, applying makeup or just taking eyes off the road, it's no wonder why distracted driving is a growing cause of teen crashes.
Takeaway: Ignition on, distractions off.
Speeding. Sixteen-year-old drivers have high crash rates in which excessive speed is a factor.
Takeaway: Keep speeds down; use cruise control when it's safe to do so.
Single-vehicle crashes. Many fatal crashes involve only the teen's vehicle. Typically these are high-speed crashes in which the driver lost control.
Takeaway: Reduce speed; don't try to drive beyond your ability.
Passengers. Crashes are more likely to occur when other teenagers are in the car. The risk increases sharply with every additional passenger.
Takeaway: Make driving your peaceful, unplugged "alone time."
Alcohol. Although this is a problem among drivers of all ages, it's actually less of a problem for 16-year-olds. Only about 10% of fatally injured 16-year-old drivers have blood-alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or greater.
Takeaway: Just don't.
Night driving. This is a high-risk activity for beginners. Per mile driven, the fatal crash rate for 16-year-olds doubles at night.
Takeaway: It's still OK to get a ride home from Mom or Dad for late nights, like evening sports practice or afterschool jobs.
Low safety belt use. Most teens who die in crashes aren't using their safety belts.
Takeaway: Click it every time.
We can't expect teens to be perfect. They are beginners, after all. But awareness is the first step to choices that can help both teens and parents worry less and live more.