Teens in Cars 2016


The Situation

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, ahead of all other types of injury, violence or disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In fact, every day, 6 teens are killed in a car crash.

Nationally in 2014, 2,138 teens were killed in crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatality Analysis Reporting System, March 1, 2016.

Of these,

  • 1 out of 3 were passengers
  • 2 out of 3 were drivers

Boy and adult

Males at Higher Risk

Sons are at a much higher risk than daughters.

  • 3 out of 4 teens killed in crashes were male
  • The risk of a fatal crash by a teen driver is almost 3 times higher if their passengers are male
  • Of teens drivers killed who had alcohol in their bloodstream, 8 out of 10 were male



Before 2014, the data showed decreasing numbers of deaths. From 1994 to 2013, the rate of teen drivers killed actually decreased by 61 percent. This progress demonstrates the effectiveness of prevention efforts of government, industry, the medical community and nonprofits in passing graduated licensing laws, engineering safer cars and raising public awareness about risky behaviors.


2014, however, saw the death rate begin to increase again and early estimates for 2015 suggest that may continue.


New Report

With support from General Motors Foundation, the latest research report from Safe Kids Worldwide explores the situations leading to teen car crashes. Click here to download  “When Common Sense Rules: Helping New Teen Drivers Avoid Risky Behavior,” which shares facts and insights gained from surveying teens and parents directly.  Download this summary infographic to spread the work with teens and those who care about them –  Teen Drivers and Risky Behaviors.   The study identified 7 Tips to Driving Safely:

  1. Buckle up: every person, every time
  2. Don’t drink and drive
  3. Limit the number of passengers in a car
  4. Don’t text and drive
  5. Follow the speed limit
  6. Only drive in the dark after extra practice
  7. Speak up when any driver is driving unsafely


The study surveyed teens and parents on six risky behaviors that are the leading cause of crashes for teen drivers. These are:

  1. Not buckling up
  2. Texting/distractions while driving
  3. Speeding
  4. Driving under the influence (drinking/drugs)

And then there are two situations that are particularly challenging for inexperienced drivers:

5. Driving with teen passengers

6. Driving in the dark


Safe Kids Worldwide asked teens if they engaged in any of these behaviors, and then they looked at the impact of having a formal agreement to address that behavior. Safe Kids Worldwide also looked at how teens reacted if their parents were good role models on each behavior.


Safe Kids Worldwide found that teens take fewer risks when they have a formalized agreement about driving rules and if their parents are good role models and follow the rules themselves.

Strategies for Parents

  • Make an agreement with your new teen driver on the family driving rules
  • Be a role model for safe driving by following the rules yourself
  • Ensure your new teen driver gets at least 50 hours of supervised experience under a variety of driving conditions
  • Download a sample Parent-Teen Driver Agreement from the CDC – a great way to let teens know what is expected of them when they are behind the wheel
  • Use this interactive infographic 7 Tips for Driving Safely, to talk with teens



Safe Kids Oregon works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States.  Safe Kids Oregon is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury.  Safe Kids Oregon was founded in 1995 and is proudly led by Oregon Child Development Coalition. 

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