Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage for many teenagers. Latest highway statistics show that there are 8.8 million teen drivers in the U.S. Depending on their home state, teens can get a temporary license anywhere from 16 to 18.
The prospect of independent driving is alluring for many teens. Still, while driving has numerous benefits, there are also associated risks. A relative increase in motor vehicle deaths has occurred in the last two consecutive years. In 2021 alone, 46,980 people died in vehicle crashes, 11% more than in 2020.
These numbers show that American roads are more dangerous now than ever. Check out these 17 statistics about teen driving to help you prepare for the road.
- 189,950 young drivers injured themselves in crashes in 2020.
- The #1 best place for teenage drivers is New York.
- There are 8.3% fewer young drivers now than in 2011.
- 56% of Gen Z are in favor of phasing out gas-powered cars.
- 4,561 young drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2020.
- More than 50% of teens who die in crashes did not wear seatbelts.
- 50% of teenage driving-related crashes occur on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
- Female teenage driver fatalities have decreased by 25%.
- 39% of male drivers were speeding in their fatal crashes.
- 12% of adolescent drivers drive without a license or permit.
What Percentage of Car Crashes Involve Drivers Under 18?
189,950 young drivers were injured in crashes in 2020. In the same year, unintentional injuries from vehicular accidents are among the highest causes of nonfatal emergency department visits across 5-24-year-olds.
Except for elderly drivers, teenagers drive less than any other age group, according to the IIHS. However, crashes and crash fatalities involving teens are disproportionately high. 16- to 17-year-olds, specifically, are at the highest risk of being in a fatal crash.
General Teenage Driving Statistics
Teen drivers account for 11.6 million motorists, making up 5.1% of all licensed drivers. The number of teen drivers has also shown a downtrend in the past decade for reasons such as climate consciousness and the rise of car-sharing technology.
Find out the latest statistics on teen driver rates and the best states to drive in this section.
1. There are 871,000 teen drivers in California alone.
(Federal Highway Administration, Carparts.com)
California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois take the top spots for the highest number of teen drivers in the state. California alone has 871,659 teen drivers on its roadways. All three except Florida also rank highest in having the most interstate highways. Meanwhile, Alaska, Vermont, and D.C. have the lowest number of teen drivers.
These numbers are likely due to the size of individual states and the number of highways that run through them. This shows an additional risk to teen drivers, as highway collisions are often more damaging and cause more fatalities.
2. The #1 best place for teenage drivers is New York.
While New York has low overall transportation scores, the Empire State is the best state for teen drivers. With 316,454 teen drivers, New York takes the lead in metrics for the least driver deaths involving:
- Alcohol and drugs
- number of roads in poor condition
- vehicle miles traveled
- prevailing state laws
However, Nebraska, Montana, and Wyoming are ranked as the worst states for teen drivers.
3. There are 8.3% fewer young drivers now than in 2011.
(Washington Post, USA Today)
This decline is attributed to several factors, such as the rising price of cars, employment status, household income, etc. Furthermore, car insurance prices have skyrocketed to almost 14% in 2022 and 2023.
The rise in the overall cost of buying and keeping cars dissuades teens from driving altogether.
4. 56% of Gen Z are in favor of phasing out gas-powered cars.
(Washington Post, Pew Research Center)
There are many reasons for wanting to get a license. Most cite better job opportunities, time, and convenience as critical driving reasons.
However, climate change has changed how teens view driving in general. Gen Z now supports phasing out fossil fuels and gas-powered vehicles. The rise of car-sharing apps like Uber has also lessened teenagers' need to get their licenses.
Teenage Driving Accidents Statistics
The CDC reports that, on average, 8 teens die daily from vehicle crashes. Furthermore, an estimated $40.7 billion is spent annually on medical costs, and lives lost due to teenage driving-related accidents.
Check out the following numbers on teen accidents for more information.
5. 16-17-year-olds, specifically, are at the highest risk of being in a fatal crash.
(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
According to the IIHS, teenagers are on the road less than all age groups except older adults. However, crashes and crash fatalities involving teens are disproportionately high.
6. 75% of teen driver crashes are due to "critical errors."
(Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)
The most common driving errors that cause teenage crashes are lack of scanning, speeding, and distractions. Teenagers also have a higher tendency for accidents if distracted by a phone, impaired by alcohol or drugs, or with peers while driving.
7. 321 teens died in accidents involving distracted accidents.
While the 25-34 age bracket still holds the top spot for distracted driving fatalities, teenagers in the 15-20 age group ranked 4th in total deaths. This rank makes teenagers account for 6% of total deaths. This is because teens tend to be constantly attached to technology and use their phones often while driving.
8. 4,561 young drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2020.
Motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of teenage deaths in the United States. 2020 statistics show a slight 5% increase from 4362 deaths by crashes in 2011.
1,885 teenage drivers died in these crashes, making up 7.6% of total driver fatalities in 2021.
9. More than 50% of teens who die in crashes did not wear seatbelts.
(CDC, Jama Network Open)
51-60% of teen drivers and passengers involved in crashes were not wearing seatbelts. In 2019, 43% of high school students answered in a survey that they only sometimes wore seatbelts.
However, teenagers are still willing to wear their buckles. A study by Jama Network Open in 2022 showed that texting young people about their seatbelt habits helped improve their seatbelt usage. After six weeks, 21% showed a greater likelihood of wearing seatbelts.
10. 13% of teens drove despite using marijuana.
(2021 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey)
A 2017 report showed that 13% of their respondents answered that they had driven while under the influence of marijuana for 30 days before they responded to the survey. Meanwhile, the 2021 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 17% of their high school participants used marijuana 30 days before the survey.
11. 852 teenage drivers killed in 2020 were alcohol-impaired.
(Cleveland Clinic, NHTSA)
29% had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 g/dL or higher when they died. Meanwhile, 24% of all teenage drivers were shown to be legally intoxicated when they died with a BAC of 0.08 g/dL.
People with this much alcohol in their system may find it difficult to coordinate their muscle movements and have greater difficulty detecting danger. A BAC of 0.08 g/dL also indicates impaired judgment and reasoning.
12. 50% of teenage driving-related crashes occur on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
(2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey)
In 2020, 44% of crash deaths occurred between 9 PM- 6 PM, the most common time for drinking and partying among young adults. These crashes may have occurred due to impairment from alcohol intoxication and a lack of a designated driver during nighttime and weekend driving.
The 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 16.7% of American high schoolers had been passengers of drunk drivers in the past 30 days before the survey.
Teenage Driving Demographics Statistics
Current statistics reveal 4,471,802 male and 4,349,653 female teenage drivers in the U.S. The top states for adolescent drivers in terms of population are California, Texas, Illinois, and Florida.
While population-wise, the numbers are almost equal for male and female drivers; some statistics show glaring differences in fatalities regarding gender, ethnicity, and location.
Read the following statistics to learn more:
13. Female teenage driver fatalities have decreased by 25%.
2021 data from the NHTSA shows a drastic decrease in the driver fatality rates of female teenage drivers by 25%. On the other hand, their male counterparts showed a 2% increase in fatality rates.
Male drivers are also shown to be more involved in fatal crashes, with 56.59% involved male drivers per 100,000 drivers, while women only had an involvement rate of 21.54% per 100,000 drivers. Male drivers were also more involved in fatal crashes while intoxicated.
14. 16-year-olds are five times more involved in crashes than 18-year-olds.
(Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine)
While it may be easy to lump together teenagers in one group, there’s a significant difference in their crash rates by age. 16-year-olds are also three times more likely to be involved than 17-year-olds and twice as likely as those above 85.
15. 39% of male drivers were speeding in their fatal crashes.
(DMV of the State of California)
Speeding is a significant factor in all fatal crashes among teenage drivers. 39% of males and 24% of females were speeding when they were killed. Studies also show that inexperience, immaturity, risk-taking, and exposure to risk are some of the most common reasons for teenage driving accidents.
16. 12% of teenage drivers drive without a license or permit.
In a study in California Agriculture, 265 of their respondents said that they drive even without the necessary documentation. Among these, 56% of the unlicensed drivers were male, and 67% were Hispanic. African-American and Hispanic youth were shown to be more likely to drive without a license than their Asian, white, or Native-American peers.
Most of these unlicensed drivers are also from low-income backgrounds. Many reports that they avoid getting proper documents because of the cost of obtaining licenses and insurance.
17. Idaho holds the record for the highest percentage of fatalities involving teenage drivers, with 17.8%.
Overall, 38 people died in crashes involving teenage drivers in Idaho. Out of these, 18 were killed. Meanwhile, New Hampshire has the lowest percentage of fatalities involving teen drivers, with 9 fatalities making up 8.7% of total deaths.
Texas has the highest number of teenage crash fatalities, primarily due to its population size, with 207 driver deaths. The lowest number of teenage crash deaths by state is 3 in D.C., Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The Bottom Line
Overall, teenage driving has its pros and cons. While the convenience of going anytime, anywhere may be alluring for teens, the risks involved in driving must be something they should consider.
It's important to get parents and authority figures involved in teenage driving behaviors. Some friendly reminders on traffic safety rules and interventions make a lot of difference for the safety of teenage drivers.