A prior blog post of mine discussed that car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers (15-19 years old) around the world. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the United States, teenage drivers are more than twice as likely to get into a car crash than drivers in other demographics. Furthermore, teenagers are more likely to get into a car crash if other teens are in the same car. To read more about teen-driver crash statistics, you can learn more at the Insurance Information Institute.
Every state has a restricted driver’s license program. In theory, these programs are supposed to allow teenagers the experience of driving while they mature and develop more responsible attitudes while on the road. It is assumed that immaturity and lack of driving experience causes our high rate of teenagers involved in car accidents. This intuitively makes sense, however, it is not the entire story.
Harvard researchers, after reviewing driving accident data in Massachusetts, found that the most serious car accidents occurred at night. Driving-while-tired is likely a leading cause of nearly 20% of fatal car accidents. The NHTSA says that teenage drivers (15-20 years old) account for 9% of all fatal crash victims. As one of the Harvard researchers put it: Young people are strikingly overrepresented in sleep-related crashes…because they are more vulnerable than older people to performance impairment as a result of sleep deprivation, particularly during the night time…. The study was published in Health Affairs in June 2015
In Massachusetts, the study showed that teen car crashes declined after the state raised penalties for teens (with restricted drivers licenses) caught driving at night.
Other studies show that teen car accident rates significantly drop after a year of experience driving on their own. While I have only read the broad conclusions of this study (I have not picked apart the data), the findings seem to make sense. If they do to you as well – you can take additional precautions with your teen drivers to keep them safe. Curfews make sense. As my father used to say: nothing good happens after ten o’clock at night. Drive safely.