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New Survey: Teen Drivers Still 4x More Likely to Be in a Crash

BY: Amanda Walter
Teenage driver seated in a car with her mother

From their very first breath, our primary goal as parents is to keep our children safe and protected. So, our hearts start racing when we think of our teens driving for the first time. After all, according to a recent study by IIHS-HDLI, teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident than older drivers.

The truth is that inexperienced drivers are more likely to make mistakes, but there are a few things that parents can do to help prevent teen drivers from getting into a car crash and becoming a crash rate statistic.

Unpacking the Data: Understanding Teen Driving Risks

The study examined police crash reports from all ranges of severity and determined that teen drivers aged 16-19 were four times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) than drivers over the age of 20.

These numbers are based on the accident rate versus miles driven, so while teen drivers don’t drive as much as adults, they are at a higher risk when they do. In fact, car accidents or fatal crashes are the leading cause of death in teens in this age range. Researchers went on to further say that 16-year-old drivers are 1.5x more likely to be in an accident than teenage drivers in the 18 to 19-year-old age group.

Why Teen Drivers Are More Likely to Crash

Studies also show that 70% of parents are confident in their teen’s driving abilities, so why are the statistics for motor vehicle crashes still so high? Although no two accidents are alike, there are common factors that can contribute to the heightened risk for teen drivers.

Inexperience

Simply put, teen drivers lack experience behind the wheel. No matter how proficient they are at the rules of driving, there is an additional layer of safety that comes only through years of experience. Knowing what signs to look for in other drivers, gauging your vehicle’s unique acceleration and stopping speed, or even having the ability to drive while scanning the road ahead for stalled vehicles or debris only comes with time.

Distractions

Anything that removes your focus from the task at hand – driving – is a distraction. Today, cell phone use is notably a common distraction, but they aren’t the only culprit. Other distracted driver scenarios include:

  • Locating volume, air conditioning, or other functions within the vehicle
  • Multi-tasking, like applying makeup or picking up something that fell
  • Looking at anything other than the road, like an accident or a sunset
  • Listening to loud music
  • Loud or disruptive passengers
  • Drinking or eating
  • Getting lost in thought or daydreaming

Reckless Driving

Risky driving behaviors put everyone on the road in jeopardy. While drivers from most age brackets are prone to cut corners on driving safety, teens are especially susceptible. Common reckless driving behaviors that lead to preventable car accidents include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving too closely
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Failure to signal
  • Running red lights
  • Not yielding the right-of-way

Impairment

Driving while in the right state of mind is key to arriving at your destination safe and sound. Unfortunately, many teens are prone to driving while impaired. Whether they’re driving while drowsy after a night of studying, experiencing strong emotions like rage or sadness, or even driving while intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, impaired driving is dangerous.

The Impact on Families: Physical, Emotional and Financial Strains

A car accident can have devastating repercussions, not just physically but also emotionally and financially as well. Even a minor fender bender can leave a long-lasting park on both the teen driver and those closest to them.

Physical

The most obvious impact from a car crash is immediate vehicle damage. Depending on the severity of the accident, damage can range from a surface scratch to a totaled vehicle.

Anyone involved in a vehicle accident should anticipate trauma to their body. The abrupt, jarring motion of even a minor impact can result in swelling from muscle and tissue damage. From cuts, burns, and bruises to broken bones and amputation, accidents can cause a range of bodily injuries. Injuries can take days, months, or even years to heal. Some accidents result in permanent damage.

Emotional

Collisions can have an emotional toll, too. Teen drivers can struggle with psychologically distressing side effects, such as mood swings and extreme feelings of guilt, anxiety, anger, or frustration. Some victims are able to overcome the associated stress or anxiety quickly, while some may take longer. Sometimes, drivers can experience ongoing distress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The psychological impact can sometimes have the most significant impact on a driver’s overall quality of life.

Families of accident victims can also experience emotional anguish. If a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, those around them can experience shock, disbelief, and fear.

Financial

Car accidents can also financially impact teen drivers and their families, often in the form of dramatically increased insurance premiums. However, medical bills and expensive car repairs can also follow an accident.

Safeguarding Teen Drivers: Preventative Measures and Best Practices

Although we can’t always keep our children from making mistakes or getting hurt, there are a few things that we can do to prepare them for the road ahead, reducing their risk of being caught in an accident.

Reduce the Risk

Keeping teen high school students safe on the road starts with prevention. Experts weigh in with few ways to reduce the risk of a teen driving accident.

Driver’s Education

Inexperienced drivers are at a higher risk than those with years of experience. Set your teen driver up for success with driver’s education to help them get ready. A driver’s education course, either with their school, the DMV, or a reliable instructor, can prepare them with knowledge about traffic laws and safe driving habits.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

Practice makes “perfect,” especially when it comes to driving. Driving is an incredibly complex skill that requires the quick use of cognitive, sensory, and motor functions. A Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program helps them build their driving skills at a safe pace under parental supervision. Each state has its own version of the GDL, but they are similar in nature.

  • Step 1: Learner’s Permit – Driving practice with a supervising adult in the vehicle.
  • Step 2: Provisional License: Teens can drive unsupervised but with some restrictions, such as operational hours or passenger permissions (such as not driving with a teenage passenger).
  • Step 3: Full License

Later Licensing

Teenagers’ brains are still being fine-tuned (and will continue to develop until the mid-to-late 20s). The last part to develop is the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that gives us the ability to make sound judgments. The parameters of the law give guidelines for when a child can start to drive; however, there’s no rule saying they have to start then. Since each child develops at their own pace, it’s important to wait until your teen is ready to drive.

Set Clear Rules

As with all other aspects of life, teen drivers should have clear boundaries to help remind them to make good decisions when behind the wheel. Here are a few ideas of rules to implement:

  • Wear a seat belt
  • No carpooling
  • Drive only on weekdays
  • Obey speed limits
  • Put away distractions
  • Avoid driving in dangerous weather conditions
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other substances

Vehicle Maintenance

Vehicles that break down while driving pose a risk to everyone on the road, not just to new drivers or novice drivers. It can be unnerving to experience mechanical failure while driving. Trying to make a rational decision and navigate a failing vehicle safely to the side of the road adds an additional layer of crash risk. Keeping up with scheduled routine maintenance can help reduce the risk of emergency situations.

Ensuring your teen is familiar with routine maintenance and knows what to do in an emergency can help keep them safer. Keeping their car insurance and extended car warranty up to date also provides a financial safety net if and when something does break.

Monitoring Apps

Another way to keep your new teen driver safe is to use technology to your advantage. With location monitoring apps like Life360, Bark, or MamaBear, you can watch not only where your teen is going but also their driving habits. Find out if they’re using a device while driving, speeding, accelerating too quickly, or if they’ve been in an accident. One study reported that almost half of all parents use a monitoring app for peace of mind or to teach safe driving.

Cars with Safety Features

Although our kids may want more horsepower or a small gas-saver, it is up to us as parents to use discernment when determining the safest car for teen drivers. It’s important not to choose anything too small, too old, or too fast (no matter how responsible they are). Having the right vehicle can keep your teenage driver safe in the event of an accident or even avoid an accident altogether.

Safety Features to Consider

While features like airbags, anti-lock brakes, and rearview mirrors are standard in all recent vehicle makes and models, there are new safety features that provide an additional layer of safety. Here are a few vehicle safety features to consider:

  • Backup Camera
  • Adaptive Headlights
  • Blind-Spot Monitoring
  • Advanced Crash Protection
  • Lane-Keeping Assist
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Automatic Braking
  • Lane-Departure Warning

Safest Cars for Teen Drivers

Whether your teen is inheriting a hand-me-down, getting a new-to-them used car, or even a brand-new car, a safe and reliable vehicle is at the top of every parent’s wish list. Thankfully, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has partnered with Consumer Reports to compile a list of safe vehicles for teens. Here are a few that made the cut:

Mazda 3 Sedan or Hatchback

The model years 2014 and later are among the safest small cars in the industry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Mazda 3 a safety rating of 5 stars out of 5 and the IIHS gave the Top Safety Pick+ award to the 2020 model.

Toyota Prius V

This midsize 4-door wagon’s safest years are from 2015-2017 before it was discontinued in 2017. The 2015 Toyota Prius V was even awarded the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-Vs have ranked at the top of the list of the safest small SUVs since 2015. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2021 Honda CR-V a 5 star safety rating.

Extended Warranty Benefits for Teen Drivers

Once you’ve chosen the safest car for your teen driver, it’s important to protect your teen and the investment. Having a reliable vehicle and practicing safe driving techniques are great ways for young drivers to avoid teen car accidents, preventing injuries and insurance claims. Unfortunately, car insurance companies only cover repairs after a collision. But what happens if the vehicle breaks down? Most car insurance policies don’t cover mechanical breakdowns.

If your young driver has a new vehicle, mechanical breakdowns are covered by the initial factory warranty. However, for teens driving a used car or out of the manufacturer’s warranty, the dealership isn’t always much help unless you purchased an extended car warranty for your teen. However, an auto protection plan like those from Endurance Warranty can provide a financial safety net for a wider range of vehicles and driving styles.

Customizable coverage options are available for high-mileage vehicles, older cars, cars with salvage titles, and even vehicles used for rideshare or food delivery services.  Endurance extended warranty coverage can protect against unexpected car repair costs, alleviate financial worries, and contribute to keeping your teen’s car in safe, working condition.

Endurance Coverage: A Closer Look at Benefits for Teens and Families

Not only do coverage plans cover the cost of expensive repairs, but Endurance also offers a suite of additional benefits, complimentary with any vehicle service contract (VSC). All coverage plans come with benefits like 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage, rental car reimbursements, and more. These perks keep your teenage driver from being stranded on the side of the road. When you have the peace of mind that comes from knowing the costs of repairs are covered, your family can focus on reinforcing safe driving habits.

Navigating the Road Ahead

The best time to prepare for mechanical breakdown is before it happens. We can help you find the best Endurance Warranty plan for your teen’s vehicle. We’ll gather all the details, like the car’s age, mileage, and known reliability issues, as well as your target budget and coverage goals, to create a customized quote based on your lifestyle.

Get a customized quote today. Reach out to our award-winning customer service team by calling (800) 253-8203 to request a FREE quote. You can also get your own quote when you shop online to start comparing plans now. We’re here to answer any questions you have so you can make an informed decision, enhancing your teen’s safety and security on the road ahead.

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