Teen Driver Risk Factors

Becoming a licensed driver is a significant event in any teen’s life. Unfortunately, it can be terrifying for parents and caregivers. Driving is an enormous responsibility, and it is a task that requires quick decision-making. The reality is that teens are more likely to be in car accidents because of their lack of driving experience.

According to teenage driving statistics, 2021 saw a dramatic increase in the number of teens involved in motor vehicle accidents across the United States. Fortunately, there are precautions that you can take to help keep your teen safe. Teenagers must understand these risks and know their responsibilities while behind the wheel.

What Risk Factors do Teen Drivers Face?

Many factors can affect the risks associated with driving for new drivers. Some risk factors are within the teen’s control, while others are not.

The following are some common risk factors for teen drivers:

  • Cell phone use: Talking or texting while driving is a significant distraction and increases the chances of being involved in an accident. As a parent or guardian, it is not only important to talk to your new driver about the dangers of using a cell phone while driving but also lead by your own example. 
  • Driving at night or during inclement weather: Teenagers are more likely to be involved in accidents during nighttime than during the daytime. This is due to reduced visibility and increased fatigue. Additionally, the risk of your teen getting into an accident increases during inclement weather. It is best to limit your new driver’s time behind the wheel to daylight hours and during ideal weather conditions until they gain more experience. 
  • Driving with passengers: Teens are more likely to take risks or become distracted when they have friends in the car. As a parent, it is wise to limit the number of passengers that you allow your teen to have to ensure everyone’s safety. 
  • Inexperience: The less experience you have behind the wheel of course increases the chances that you will a mistake while driving. Even after your teen hits the milestone of obtaining their license to drive on their own, it is a good idea to continue to have an adult ride along as they start out for additional coaching.  
  • Speeding: This is one of the top causes of accidents for all drivers, but it is more prevalent for less experienced drivers, who are more likely to lose control of their vehicles at high speeds. Having a conversation about the dangers of speeding, setting expectations and consequences, and leading by example is highly encouraged to reduce this risk. 
  • Impaired driving: Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is never safe, but it is even more unsafe for teenagers whose judgment and reflexes are still developing. Having a conversation about not using drugs or alcohol, especially when driving, with your teen is extremely important. 
  • Not wearing a seatbelt: According to the CDC, teens have the lowest rate of seatbelt use. Over half the fatalities of young drivers are a result of lack of safety restraint when involved in a car crash. While wearing a seat belt won’t prevent your teen from getting into an accident, it will most definitely decrease the chances of a fatal injury should they unfortunately do. 

Teens must understand the risk factors that they face. By understanding and identifying these risks, teens and their families can take steps to mitigate them. 

Why is Teenage Driving Dangerous?

Many factors can contribute to increased risk while driving. Some of the most common teen driver risk factors include:

  • Inexperience: Teens are more likely to get into accidents because they lack the experience and skills of more experienced drivers. As a result, they may not know how to handle certain situations on the road or may not have the skills necessary to avoid an accident.
  • Immaturity: Teens are more likely to take risks while driving, such as speeding or not wearing seatbelts, which can lead to accidents. Additionally, teens are more likely than adults to be involved in distracted driving accidents. This is because they are more likely to text or use their phones while driving.
  • Distractions: Teens are easily distracted by their passengers, cell phones, and other things inside the car, which can take their attention away from the road and lead to accidents.
  • Alcohol and drugs: Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is one of the top causes of teenage accidents. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair a teen’s judgment and reaction time, making accidents more likely.

Many risk factors can contribute to accidents for teen drivers. Some of these risks can be controlled, such as texting while driving and speeding, while others, like inexperience, cannot. It is vital that teens fully understand what is expected of them while behind the wheel. They must be committed to safely operating their vehicles to avoid crashes. 

Parents and guardians need to communicate openly with their teens about making good decisions when behind the wheel. Setting rules and ensuring you and your teen on the same page regarding expectations is important. It is the parent’s responsibility to make sure their young driver respects that privilege, even if it means having to suspend that privilege until they appreciate it. It could make the difference in keeping them and other drivers safe. 

What to do if your teen was injured in an accident?

It is important to seek legal guidance immediately if your teen is injured in a motor vehicle accident. Just because your young driver may be inexperienced, doesn’t necessarily mean they were at fault. Because of Virginia’s contributory negligence rule, it is even more important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney BEFORE you speak with the insurance company. Our personal injury attorneys at Huffman & Huffman Brothers-in-Law, PLLC, can help to educate you and your teen’s rights and guide you through the process on what to do next. Schedule a free consultation at our Virginia law firm today to get started. Let our family help your family. 

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