Teen Driving Statistics


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There is perhaps no greater milestone towards freedom as a young adult than when a teenager steps behind the wheel of a car. Equally, there is perhaps no greater moment of fear in a parent’s life than when they hand the keys of a car to their teenager. So, let’s take this opportunity to enlighten this pivotal moment in a young adult’s life with the facts behind it all. Below, you’ll find the cold, hard facts on teenage driving.

How Many 16-Year-Olds Drive

The following graph represents the number of drivers by thousands and by gender. There are over 4 million drivers in the United States between the ages of 16 and 17 by 2017. The ratio between male and female drivers is roughly equal, with young men driving more often than young women. This is compared to the over 200 million drivers over the age of 18 that hit the road every day. Yet, as subsequent graphs will show, this age group accounts for a remarkably high percentage of auto accidents, injuries, and deaths.

Source: National Household Travel Survey 2017, NHTS

Unintentional Injury Cause of Death in Age Group 13 to 19

When compared with a host of unintentional injuries that lead to teenage deaths, one can clearly see that “traffic accident” marks as the highest in 2017. With 2,763 incidents, traffic accidents account for 63.5% of all teenage unintentional death injuries. By the time they have reached their teenage years, most know how to swim, and most are able to make reasonable decisions about health and safety. It is the interjection of driving around the age of 16 that causes the numbers to spike. They are learning to drive in real time, and the results of poorly calculated decisions are often unforgiving.

Source: CDC’s WISQARS™

Teen Driver Deaths over the Years

While the death of any teenager is a tragedy, the data on teenage deaths as a result of motor vehicle accidents has been trending down over the past 43 years. This is due in large part to the increase in modern vehicles on the road with updated safety features as well as increased driver safety education. The most improvement has been realized by teenage males. In 1978, they reached a peak of 9,940 incidents, and by 2017 that number had dropped to 1,807. Female teenage driving deaths have improved as well, dropping to 925 in 2017.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS


The following map displays the number of young drivers involved in a fatal traffic accident. For the most part, the trends follow the general population distribution with the most populated states seeing the highest numbers. California, Texas, and Florida lead the nation in this category. Remarkably, New York, despite its high population is not above many less populated states like Ohio or North Carolina. This is attributed to a large degree by the fact that the population of the state of New York is largely driven by New York City which sees a lower number of teenage drivers than more rural states and locations.

Source: Traffic Safety Facts 2017 Data, NHTSA

Total Fatalities in Crashes Involving Young Drivers in 2017 by State

In this map, you can see the total impact of fatalities caused by young drivers by state. In many cases, multiple deaths occur within a single motor vehicle incident. Again, with population being a major factor, the states of California, Texas, and Florida continue to lead the way. Meanwhile, Alaska and Hawaii bring up the back end with just 5 total fatalities involving a young driver in each state.


Source: Traffic Safety Facts 2017 Data, NHTSA

Percentage of State Traffic Fatalities Involving Young Drivers in 2017

Despite accounting for roughly 3% of the U.S. road traffic, young drivers account for between 9% and 18% of state accidents resulting in a fatality. The state of Rhode Island actually leads the nation with 18.1% of accidents resulting in a fatality being caused by a young driver. On the low end, Hawaii witnesses only 4.7% in the same category.


Source: Traffic Safety Facts 2017 Data, NHTSA


What is the most common cause of teen driving accidents?


When one jumps into the actual causes of young adult auto accidents, the poor decision making by teens while behind the wheel becomes more staggering. In states where the data was available, between 30% and 50% of all teenage drivers have admitted to texting or emailing while driving. The data is conclusive, and it shows that distracted driving by incidents such as texting can actually be more deadly than driving drunk. With this data set, it is worth noting that rural states with wide open roads such as Montana, North Dakota and Iowa lead the nation with over 50% of young adults admitting to this dangerous behavior.

Source: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – 2017 , CDC


Perhaps one of the most common and easily used safety feature of a car is the good old-fashioned seat belt. The mortality rates from car accidents spike dramatically when one is not in use. Yet, between 6% to 17% of teen drivers admit to rarely or never using a seat belt. Arkansas and Lousianna lead the nation in teens who rarely wear a seat belt at 17.5% and 12.5%, respectively.


Source: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – 2017 , CDC

Percentage of High School Students Who Drove Under the Influence in 2017

Arkansas and Louisiana again lead the way when it comes to teens who admit to driving after drinking alcohol. Teenagers struggle with making quick and safe decisions while not under the influence of alcohol when behind the wheel. When you add alcohol into their decision-making process, the accident and death rate skyrockets.


Source: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – 2017 , CDC



Deciding to drive after drinking alcohol is a poor decision that far too many young adults make. However, an even larger number of high school students make the decision to get into a car with a driver they know has been drinking. The numbers vary by state and range from 12% to 28% percent. Interesting to point out, Arkansas and Louisiana continue to lead the nation in this category as well.


Source: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – 2017 , CDC

US Teenage Driving Deaths in 2017 by Time of Day

This graph provides the support for laws restricting teenage driving. As expected, the number of death spikes after 3pm when most teens are let out of school. However, the death rate jumps between 9pm and midnight and remains high until 3am. This is the dangerous window where visibility is low and the conditions for teenagers to make poor decisions are at a high point.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS

States with Restrictions on Teenage Driving at Night

With the data conclusively telling us that most teenage accidents will occur at night, many states have stepped into the fray in order to help prevent teenagers from driving at night. These states have restrictions on teenage drivers with some starting as early at 9:00pm and lasting as late as 6:00am. Most states have allowances for teenagers coming to or from work or school events. However, joyriding with friends at midnight is simply not allowed for teenagers in most states.

Source: MMWR, CDC

In Review

Gaining one’s driver’s license is seen as a rite of passage in American teenage life and one in which nearly all teens will eventually pursue. Though we as a society know the dangers, driving is simply an integral part of American life. Parents who understand the facts are in the best position to guide and coach their children through this perilous season of driving so they may watch them grow and thrive into adulthood.




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