What Are the Risks

Seatbelt Use



Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself!

“Seatbelts are the most effective safety device in your car. They take only a few seconds to buckle, will dramatically reduce the chance of injury or death for every occupant, and come already installed in every car and yet two thirds of teens killed in fatal crashes were NOT wearing seat belts!”


Many parents don’t realize it, but the #1 threat to their teen’s safety is driving or riding in a car with a teen driver. The fact is, about 3,000 teens lose their lives every year in car crashes. That’s eight teens a day too many. The main cause is driver inexperience.      

Experience helps drivers understand how to recognize and react to hazards, drive in inclement weather, drive at night and properly gauge gaps in traffic. Teens do not have enough behind-the-wheel experience to do any of those things with ease. These are skills teens can only develop with practice, and they are the skills parents need to practice most often with their teens.


Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is anything that will cause the driver to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel or their mind off of driving. Two of the top distractions are:

  • Other Young Passengers

Having other young passengers in the car is the number one most dangerous driving behavior for teens. Two or more peer passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash when a teen is behind the wheel.

  • Cell phones

Texting and driving or any type of cell phone is extremely dangerous.

From One Second to the Next - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuawMvXHhSE


Other dangerous distractions include:

  • Eating and/or drinking while driving
  • Playing with the radio/navigation system
  • Applying make-up
  • Looking for things in the glove box or reaching for a purse
  • Fumbling while performing what seems like a simple task

Night Driving

For all ages, fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night; but the risk is highest for teens.  “While only 15% of the miles driven by teens are at night, nearly 40% of fatal crashes involving teens occur then. Make sure that your teen has significant night time driving experience.” 



Speeding or going too fast for the road conditions, is a major factor in teen crash fatalities. Speeding increases the stopping distance required to avoid a collision even as it reduces the amount of time a driver needs to avoid a collision (called the 3-second rule). It also increases the likelihood that the crash will result in injury. For example, teens driving 40 mph in a 30 mph zone may think they’re “only” going 10 mph over the posted speed limit. But that “small” increase in speed translates to a 78 percent increase in collision energy – that’s nearly double.

In a study funded by insurer State Farm, the Governors Highway Safety Association found that half of all fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers with three or more passengers are speeding-related.

See more at:


Emotions and Fatigue


Driving when emotions are high can interrupt your ability to process information in the driving environment and incite you to act out your emotions. You can lose your ability to perform skills that require precise timing to complete. Physically, your body can react in many ways including increases in heart beat and respiration rates and spikes adrenaline levels.

Teens’ brains are still developing and are very vulnerable to their emotions and the emotions of others. They usually have less means and independence than they would like, which can increase their frustrations and intensify their emotions.

Ask for a commitment from your teen to delay driving when they are emotional or upset. Get a verbal agreement and include it in your Parent & Teen Driving Contract.

See more at:



Teen drivers who sleep less than 8 hours nightly are one-third more likely to crash than those who sleep 8 or more hours nightly.1

Those who get less sleep than average experience increased daytime sleepiness, depressive mood, high levels of risk-taking behaviors, and lower grades.2

1 Hutchens L, et al. Teen Driver Crash Risk and Associations with Smoking and Drowsy Driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention. May 2008

2 National Sleep Foundation. Summary of Findings for the 2006 Sleep in America Poll. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2006_summary_of_findings.pdf.

Accessed April 7, 2010. - See more at: http://www.teendriversource.org/stats/support_teens/detail/65#sthash.eqxEDkcC.dpuf

Substance Abuse

It is no secret that some teens experiment with drugs, alcohol, and other substances to avoid problems or to fit in. Although this should always be discouraged, it’s particularly hazardous when combined with driving. In 2008 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 killed in car crashes were legally intoxicated (with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher).  

Although teens are actually less likely than adults to get behind the wheel after drinking, their risk of crashing is far greater, even with low to moderate BAC levels. Adding to the danger: Teens that do drink and drink are less likely to use seat belts, increasing their risk of dying in a crash.

The good news is that the great majority of teens are not getting behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs. Ninety percent of teens responding to our National Young Driver Survey (NYDS) said they rarely or never drink alcohol or use other drugs and then drive. 

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The risk of having a brain injury is especially high among adolescents and young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of TBI-related death for 15- to 19-year-olds. From among more than 55,000 teen drivers and their passengers seriously injured each year in 2009 and 2010, 30 percent suffered injuries to the head, including skull fractures and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Since full recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI) is not always achievable, there may be life-long impact from TBI on teens and their families. The brain is the least likely organ to heal so prevention of TBI is the best medicine.

  • First line of defense against TBI is to prevent the crash:
  • Teen drivers need at least 50 hours of supervised practice driving in lots of different driving environments and conditions before driving without an adult.  
  • Teens can also lower their risk of a crash by adhering to the principals of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL), which keeps teens out of high risk driving situations (such as nighttime and driving with peer passengers) while they are given a chance to develop driving skills in lower risk situations.
  • Second line of defense against TBI - is to encourage teens to consistently wear their seat belts, on every drive, and every time.

See more at: