Motor Vehicle Crashes: Number 1 Cause of Death for Teens

The CDC reports that motor vehicle fatalities are the leading cause of death among teens in the U.S., accounting for more than one-third of all teenage deaths. On average in 2014, six teenagers (age 16-19) died every day from injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. Low rates of seat belt use, driver distraction, inability to recognize risk, shorter following distances, and alcohol use are major contributing factors to these fatalities.

In a 2014 study of young drivers aged 15 - 20, the NHTSA found that this age group accounted for 9% of all drivers involved in fatal accidents, while only representing 6% of licensed drivers overall. Their findings included the following:

  • Among young drivers, males were more than twice as likely as females to be involved in a fatal crash.
  • 225 young motorcycle riders were killed in motor vehicle collisions in the year 2014, and 25% of those who died were not wearing a helmet.
  • Of young drivers with known restraint use, only 54% of those who died in crashes were wearing a seat belt.

The CDC recommends preventative measures such as minimum drinking age enforcement and seat belt enforcement as avenues to reduce the number of teenage traffic fatalities. They also point out the benefits of Graduated Licensing Programs, which already exist in many states, stating that “Driving is a complex skill, one that must be practiced to be learned well.” These programs often limit activities such as night-time driving, and driving with teenage passengers, for newly licensed drivers. This gives young drivers time to develop basic driving skills and instincts prior to adding additional challenges and distractions.

Teen Driver Infographic

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