Teen Drivers Overview

Teen Drivers

teen driverUpdated February 2014

In 2008, 2,739 15- to 20-year-old drivers were killed and an additional 228,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes according to NHTSA. Fatal injuries from car wrecks are the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 13 and 19. The risk of crashing is especially high for teens during the first few years of licensure. Inexperience and immaturity make for risky driving behavior and increase the likelihood of a crash. In the last 10 years, all states have changed their teen licensing procedures. Many states have worked to reduce teen motor vehicle fatalities and injuries through graduated driver’s licensing (GDL). This system limits the exposure to high-risk situations by gradually phasing in driving privileges for teens. GDL allows teens to gain valuable driving experience in low-risk driving situations. 



  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds. Graduated driver's license (GDL) laws provide teens the opportunity to gain experience under low-risk conditions while limiting driving under more risky conditions such as driving at night.
  • Crash rates for teens are consistently lower in states with nighttime driving restrictions.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than one-third of all 16- and 17-year-old driver-related fatal crashes occurred between 9:00 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.
  • The majority of nighttime fatal crashes involving young drivers occur before midnight, yet more than half the 47 states with nighttime restrictions do not restrict driving until midnight or later. Three states have no nighttime driving restrictions.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety defines an optimal graduated driver's licensing system as one that includes a night driving restriction that begins at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
  • In a national survey, 74 percent of parents said they were in favor of nighttime driving restrictions.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009.

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