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Keeping Teen Drivers Safe

P.A.M.P.A. cares about the health and safety of your children and family. Our safety topic this month is Keeping Teen Drivers Safe.

Teen Drivers

Driving remains an important rite of passage for teens. Unfortunately, it also remains one of the most dangerous activities in which they engage.

Motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for adolescents age 15 to 19 years.

In 2006, motor vehicle deaths accounted for 72% of unintentional injury deaths in this age group.

Why are teen drivers at such high risk?

New inexperienced drivers are the greatest risk— one study showed teens have the highest risk of crashing within the first month of licensure (120 crashes per 10,000 drivers)! The risk of having an accident during the learner-permit stage is low, because a teenager is better supervised and usually not driving in high-risk conditions.

Risk-taking is part of adolescence, and its role in motor vehicle injury remains significant. Teens are also less likely to wear their seatbelts. In the US, 82% of drivers buckle up, while only 77% of 16-24 year old drivers wear seat belts. Teenage passengers are even less likely to wear seatbelts! Boys have twice the fatality rate of girls as drivers of vehicles. In fatal crashes involving teens, speeding plays a significant role, 40% when boys are driving, and only 25% with girls driving.

Why are teen drivers at such high risk?

A teen driver with one teen passenger has a 40% increased risk for crashing. This risk doubles with two friends, and this statistic quadruples with three or more passengers! Using a cell phone increases crash rates by almost 40% - hands free phones do not mitigate this risk.

Remember eating, drinking and adjusting the radio or climate controls each cause more crashes than cellular phones.

Substance Use -
Overall teens are less likely to drink and drive than adults, but they are more likely to suffer a crash if they are impaired. Don’t forget prescription and over-the-counter medications that may also affect driving. A single 50 mg dose of diphenhydramine has been shown to have a greater effect than 0.10 % blood alcohol!

What can we do to make teen drivers safer? 

  • Encourage seat belt use.
  • Discourage distractions while driving.
  • Discourage unnecessary driving after dark, especially by more inexperienced drivers.
  • Develop and enforce rules regarding access to a vehicle as well as use of that vehicle (when, where, with whom etc).
  • Consider using the “Teen-Parent Driving Contract” which specifically addresses acceptable behaviors and consequences.
  • Advocate for graduated drivers license laws. 

To review a Teen-Parent Driving Contract, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics at

Download/View Teen Driving Safety Topic

© 2011 Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
PAMPA is a pediatric medical practice in north Atlanta, Georgia consisting of twelve pediatricians, five nurses,
and four locations in Roswell, Woodstock, Atlanta, and Marietta. area.
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