Teen Driving Risk Awareness

Sixteen- and 17-year-old drivers have the highest crash rates of any age group. Crash rates are highest during the first six months of licensure without supervision. The major reason for crashes among newly licensed drivers is the failure to search effectively for potential risks. The most critical time for parents to be involved with young drivers is during the first six months of unsupervised driving.

Our culture tends to view teens as young adults when, neurologically, they are only large children. The area of the brain that regulates logic and reasoning develops before the area that controls impulse and emotion. Young drivers often do not have the full capacity to control impulses. As a result, adults need to provide guidance, oversight and set limits.

Talking with teens about safe driving is one of the most important steps adults can take to keep teens safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides tips for talking with teens about risky driving. Inexperience and immaturity combine to make young drivers especially at-risk in five circumstances. Set the rules before they hit the road. Watch this 5 to Drive "Whoa" video.

  1. At night: Driving is more difficult and dangerous at night for everyone, but particularly for teenagers. Young drivers have less experience driving at night than during the day, and drowsiness and alcohol may be more of a factor at night. That is why, in Michigan, teens with a Level 2 Intermediate driver's license are restricted from driving between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
  2. Driving under the influence of substances: Young drivers' inexperience with both driving and drinking means that they have a higher crash risk at all bodily alcohol content levels than older drivers. Marihuana use and other illicit drugs may be more prevalent than alcohol in young drivers. See the Impaired Driving Fact SheetPDF icon
  3. With passengers: Teenage passengers can distract young drivers and encourage them to take risks. That is why Michigan teens with a Level 2 Intermediate driver's license are restricted from driving with more than one passenger in the vehicle who is younger than 21 years of age.  See the Passengers Fact SheetPDF icon
  4. When unbelted: Seat belts reduce the risk of injury or fatality in a crash, but teenage drivers and passengers have lower belt use rates than older drivers and passengers. See the Seat Belts Fact SheetPDF icon
  5. When using cell phones: All drivers are at higher risk when talking or texting; however, young drivers use cell phones more frequently than older drivers and have more difficulty handling distractions. Teenage and young drivers have repeatedly been found to have increased levels of crash risk due to distractions involving cell phone use. Therefore, Michigan teens with a Level 1 or Level 2 driver's license are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. See these additional resources: Distracted Driving "OMG" Video; Distracted Driving Fact SheetPDF icon Technology Resources for Safe Driving PDF icon

National youth traffic safety statistics from the NHTSA:

  • Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teens in the U.S.
  • Nationally in 2019, 2,042 people were killed in crashes involving a 15- to 18-year-old driver.
  • Nationally in 2019, 10 percent of teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were distracted.
  • More than half (55%) of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died in crashes in 2019 nationally were unbuckled. Teen drivers and passengers are more likely to die in a crash if they are unbuckled (nine out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled).

Additional Michigan Resources