Eight Danger Zones
Parents: Make sure you and your young driver are aware of the leading causes of teen crashes and injuries:
- Driver inexperience
- Driving with teen passengers
- Nighttime driving
- Not using seat belts
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving
- Impaired driving
There are proven methods to help teens become safer drivers. Learn what research has demonstrated that parents can do to keep teen drivers safe from these risks.
Seat Belts Save Lives
At least 48% of teen drivers and passengers aged 16–19 years who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2019 were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.2 Research indicates that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about halfexternal icon.28
Primary Enforcement of Seat Belt Laws
States vary in their enforcement of seat belt laws. A primary enforcement seat belt law allows police officers to ticket drivers or passengers for not wearing a seat belt, even if this is the only violation that has occurred. A secondary enforcement seat belt law allows police officers to ticket drivers or passengers for not wearing a seat belt only if they have pulled over the driver for another reason. Some states have secondary enforcement seat belt laws for adults but have primary enforcement seat belt laws for young drivers. Seat belt use among all age groups is consistently higher in states with primary enforcement seat belt laws than in states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws.29–31 Visit the seat belt and child seat laws by state webpageexternal icon on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website for up-to-date information on seat belt laws by state, including the type of enforcement, who is covered, and which seating positions are covered.32 CDC also recently published state-specific fact sheets that provide a snapshot of motor vehicle occupant deaths and seat belt use, as well as an overview of proven strategies for increasing the use of seat belts, car seats, and booster seats. Additionally, you can use CDC’s Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions and Cost Calculator for States (MV PICCS) to learn about how many lives could be saved, injuries prevented, and costs averted if your state were to implement a primary enforcement seat belt law.33
Not Drinking & Driving Prevents Crashes
Maintaining and enforcing minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws and zero tolerance laws for drivers under age 21 is recommended to help prevent drinking and driving among young drivers.34–36
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Systems Reduce Fatal Crashes
Driving is a complex skill, one that must be practiced to be learned well. Teenagers’ lack of driving experience, together with risk-taking behavior, heightens their risk for crashes. The need for skill-building and driving supervision for new drivers is the basis for graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems. Although varied, GDL systems exist in all U.S. states and Washington, D.C. GDL systems provide longer practice periods, limit driving under high-risk conditions for newly licensed drivers, and require greater participation from parents as their teens learn to drive. Research indicates that GDL systems are associated with reductions of about 19% for injury crashes and about 21% for fatal crashes for 16-year-olds.37 Current GDL research has frequently focused on exploring how many teens are delaying licensure, characteristics of teens who are more likely to delay licensure, and whether teens who delay licensure might be missing out on important benefits of GDL because they are aging out of the GDL systems in their states.38–42
Parents can help their teens be safer by knowing and following their state’s GDL laws. Check out GDL laws by stateexternal icon on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website to learn more about your state’s GDL laws.
CDC’s GDL Planning Guide can assist states in assessing, developing, and implementing actionable plans to strengthen GDL practices. CDC’s new State-Specific Fact Sheets on Costs of Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths contain recommendations of proven strategies for each state, including recommendations that could strengthen each state’s GDL system.