Teen Driving Accidents: Common Factors and Reducing Risks

Receiving a driver’s license is a rite of passage for teenagers. After the grueling drivers’ education courses and anxiety-driven tests, a three-by-two–inch card can validate a child’s hard work and dedication.

Unfortunately, what this small piece of plastic can’t do is magically give that teenager the experience and intuition that comes with being a long-term safe driver. Therefore, as a parent, it’s up to you to emphasize the risks of driving negligence and the importance of defensive driving.


Teenage Driving Risks

If you have a teenage driver in the family—whether he’s just starting to drive or has been driving for a few years—you need to ensure that he knows that his actions have consequences. Despite the fact that, as a teenager, he probably believes that he knows everything about everything, you need to overlook his overconfidence in order to protect him as well as his fellow motorists.

When discussing safety, make sure to touch on the following:

Speeding. Speeding is a common safety violation for teenagers. Teen drivers don’t have the experience to judge safe driving speeds, and they tend to be a little heavy-footed as a result of adrenaline. You need to make sure your teenager understands that speeding is the number one cause of drivers’ losing control of their vehicles.

Drinking and driving. Your teenager shouldn’t be drinking or taking performance-altering drugs in the first place, but if for some reason he becomes intoxicated, he needs to know that he can’t drive. Assure him that if he ever does get in this type of situation, that he shouldn’t be scared to call you for a ride. Although you may be upset with his choices, fear of a scolding should never outweigh the fear of a DUI accident.
Driving while distracted. All teenagers have rather short attention spans.

They honestly can’t help it…and that’s understandable. However, despite their predisposition for distractions, they need to realize that they can’t afford to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the steering wheel, or their minds off the task at hand while driving. There is no text, phone call, or situation that’s important enough to jeopardize their safety or the safety of those around them for even a second. Make sure your teenage driver has a clear understanding that when she’s driving, the only thing that matters is getting to her destination safely.

Driving defensively. As a new driver, a teenager should never take risks. Taking a chance to pass a slow driver by steering between oncoming trucks should not be an option your teen considers. Emphasize the importance of following traffic signs and rules, as well as giving other drivers the courtesy and patience they deserve. Also, remind him that he is the newcomer on the road; just because he has his driver’s license, that doesn’t mean he has a license to be irresponsible.

Studies performed by the Center for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggest the following disturbing statistics on teenage car accident injuries and seat belt use:

  • Approximately 80% of teenage drivers and passengers wear their seat belts on a regular basis.
  • Approximately 68% of teenagers killed in nighttime accidents are unrestrained.
  • Approximately 56% of the teens who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2013 were not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact.
  • Approximately 45% of high school students polled in 2013 reported that they occasionally do not wear seat belts when riding with someone else.

The most startling statistic, however, is that the number of unbelted teen drivers and passengers continues to grow every year.

Teens Are Not Always in the Wrong

There’s an automatic presumption that, if a traffic accident involves a teenager, then the teen must have been responsible. Not so! Only careful investigation can determine who is liable for a traffic wreck, and teenagers are often the victims when other drivers are negligent.


Ways to Keep Your Teen Driver Safe

There are quite a few reasons why insurance companies have high rates for teen drivers, and most of them are valid (as much as it pains us to say so.)

Let Your Teen DRIVE: It’s called a learning permit for a reason. This is a chance for your teenager to gain real word driving experience. Let them gain it by driving you everywhere. To church, to the mall, to school, to anywhere you need to go. While this will no doubt be stressful for you, it is better for your teen to have more driving experience than less.

Critique the Drive: Let your teen know what he or she is doing wrong as well as doing right. There are plenty of things to get wrong when you first get behind the wheel. These include accelerating downhill, braking too hard or accelerating too quickly after the light turns red. It’s also a fine time to teach them how to use their mirrors and to teach them about the blind spot to the rear on both sides of the car.

Don’t Lose Your Temper: You can feel free to scream or shout or tear your hair out as soon as you get home, but when you are behind the wheel, it is very important that you keep your cool. Your teen driver is probably nervous enough as it is, and having you raise your voice or pound on the dashboard won’t do much to calm his or her nerves.

Once your teen gets his or her license, your responsibilities are far from over. There are still many things that you can do to make sure that the lessons you taught your teen driver during the training period remain fixed in his or her mind.

Meet the Friends: Are your teen driver’s friends the sorts that drink? That use drugs? Do they act recklessly? You should find out. It isn’t hard to remember how there was a big difference between the way you acted around your friends and the way you acted around your parents. If you think your teenager will drink or behave recklessly while he or she is behind the wheel of the car, don’t let them have the keys.

Make Yourself Available: Make it clear to your children that you don’t want them to ever get behind the wheel of a car if they have been drinking, nor do you want them to get in a car with another driver that is similarly intoxicated. While you shouldn’t let them drink, telling them that you will pick them up with no questions asked if they have been drinking is a smart way to keep them from getting behind the wheel.

Have Them Share or Pay Insurance Costs: One practical way to have your teenager understand the many benefits of safe driving is to either have them pay for the insurance altogether or to have them share the costs with you. Once they see firsthand how the insurance costs go up due to speeding tickets and fender benders and go down with continued safe driving, they will be more inclined to make a habit of safe driving.

How To Increase Teenagers’ Use Of Seat Belts

Parents should be encouraging seat belt use way before their children are old enough to drive. In fact, by modeling safe behavior and teaching kids the reasons they need to use their seat belts, a parent may increase his teen’s chance of surviving a crash. Unfortunately, this is more easily said than done—especially at this age (teenagers tend to be in their own little worlds).

However, with persistence, you can use the following tips to motivate your teen to be safe and secure:

  • Promote awareness. Make sure your child witnesses you buckling up every time you get into a car, as well as actively pointing out when others fail to do so. By continuously reinforcing the action, your child will mimic your behavior and internalize the importance of the action.
  • Reinforce good behavior. Before you take your foot off the brake, always make sure your child is buckled properly. It doesn’t matter if he is nine years old or 19 years old; he needs to know that he must be buckled before a vehicle begins to move.
  • Denounce bad behavior. Take disciplinary action immediately if you catch your child failing to use his seat belt. Suggested actions include taking away his car privileges or making him run errands with you to prove that he can buckle up every time he gets into a car (even if that means buckling up 20 different times).
  • Emphasize consequences. Talk to your teen about the serious injuries and the potential death that can result from failing to use proper restraints. Although he may hear it at school or in driver’s education class, hearing it from you may make the difference.

Since changing behavior in teens can be difficult, there is no single way to ensure that your teen will buckle up every time he gets into a car. But, now that you’re equipped with the knowledge, you have the resources to prepare your teen and help him realize the importance of always using his seat belt.


Houston car accident Attorney Steve Lee has dedicated his practice to helping those who have been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident in the Houston area and needs the services of a personal injury attorney, contact our offices for a free legal consultation today.