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Teen Drivers

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year olds. Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main factors leading to the high crash rate among teens. Teens lack of experience affects their recognition of and response to hazardous situations and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating. 

Other major contributing factors to the higher crash risk of young drivers are night driving and teen passengers. Teenagers are involved in more motor vehicle crashes late in the day and at night than at other times of the day. Teens also have a greater chance of getting involved in an accident if other teens are present in the vehicle. 

Graduated drivers license (GDL) laws, which include a three-phase program that allows teen drivers to develop more mature driving attitudes and gain experience behind the wheel, have been successful in reducing teen motor vehicle accidents. Since 1996, when Florida became the first state to enact a GDL law, most states have enacted such laws, but provisions vary.

Teen Auto Insurance Premium Discounts: 
Rates for auto insurance for teenage drivers are always higher than for other drivers because as a group they pose a higher risk of accidents than more experienced drivers. Adding a teenager to an insurance policy can mean a 50 percent or even a 100 percent increase in the parents’ insurance premium. Some insurance companies offer discounts for students with good grades. The Good Student Discount is generally available to students who have a grade point average of a B or higher. Many companies offer programs that foster safe driving habits, such as online safety courses for young drivers and parents, contracts between young drivers and parents, educational videos and practice driving logs. 

Insurance companies are also helping to reduce the number of accidents involving teen drivers by subsidizing the cost of electronic devices that parents can install in their cars to monitor the way teens drive and by offering discounts to policyholders with teens who use these devices. The American Family Insurance Company has supplied at least 2,000 families with a DriveCam video camera that alerts parents when a teen driver makes a driving error. The program includes discounts for families that use the camera, which is free for the first year. The camera is operated by an independent company that provides weekly reports for parents. 21st Century (Zurich) and Safeco Insurance (Liberty Mutual) use global positioning systems (GPS) to monitor teen drivers. 21st Century’s free GPS works with a program that allows parents to be alerted by email or text message if their children exceed preset boundaries on speeding, distance or time. Safeco’s GPS lets parents monitor their teen drivers in real time. Progressive’s MyRate program, which can be used by all drivers, uses a black box to record speed, braking, time of day and distance driven. The information is evaluated for discounts. GMAC uses its OnStar program to give incentives to all drivers who limit their mileage.

Teen Drunk Driving: 
Underage drinking remains a factor in teenage highway fatalities. According to NHTSA, in 2008, 31 percent of drivers age 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking some amount of alcohol; 25 percent were alcohol-impaired, meaning they had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher. Researchers from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation say that laws banning the purchase or possession of alcohol by people under the age of 21 and banning the use of false identification to buy alcohol have reduced the ratio of drinking to nondrinking drivers involved in fatal accidents by 11 percent and 7 percent, respectively. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that numerous studies since the 1970s show that when the drinking age is lowered, more people die in crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 714 lives of young people ages 18, 19 and 20 were saved by the minimum drinking age laws in 2008. Since 1975 about 27,052 lives have been saved by these laws.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is one organization that has combated this problem for more than 20 years. It has been instrumental in organizing various campaigns to educate the public about the effects of driving while intoxicated. In addition, some insurance companies have sponsored initiatives and events that discourage underage drinking and drunk driving.

Teen Speeding: According to NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, among drivers involved in fatal crashes, young males are the most likely to be speeding. In 2008, 37 percent of male drivers age 15 to 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time.
Seatbelt Use: In 2008, 55 percent, or 2,014, of the 3,678 occupants of passenger vehicles age 16 to 20 who were killed in crashes were not buckled up, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Teen seatbelt use rates are especially low at night—nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the 16 to 20-year olds killed in nighttime crashes in 2007 were unbelted at the time.

Teenagers are less likely to wear safety belts even when their parents do, according to a survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released in 2002. The report found that 46 percent of the teenagers who were dropped off at school by their parents were not wearing safety belts and in 8 percent of cases teens were using safety belts while the adult driver was not. The survey, conducted at 12 high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, focused on four groups: teen drivers, teen passengers in vehicles with teen drivers, teen passengers with adult drivers and adult drivers. 
Teen Drivers Continued
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Teen Drivers