Are Teen Drivers Really That Bad?


Teenagers are in a stage wherein they want to assert their freedom and show the world that they are capable of many things. Their young age fills them with ideals and passion that drive them to have many goals in life which are all centered towards self-sufficiency and independence. Unfortunately these assertions can impact the way teenagers decide on minor and major issues. One of the major issues concerns driving and driving behavior.

Perhaps because of the different standards set by parents and peers on driving behavior, teenagers are torn in two and may act differently in accordance to the preference of the person they are with at the moment. In seeking the approval of parents, the teen may drive in accordance to the parent’s wishes if they are present company is present. Their driving behavior may be different in the presence of peers.

Young drivers lack judgement and maturity that makes them susceptible to peer pressures on drag racing, drinking and driving and texting while driving. Impulsive and known risk takers, teenage drivers might be exposing themselves and others to dangerous road situations.

According to Williams (2003) risk among teenagers varies greatly by driving situation; it is particularly low in some situations (e.g., the learner period) and particularly high in others (e.g., right after licensure, late at night, with passengers present). These findings can help the parents regulate the driving activities of their teens. Parents should demand they drive for the first year without a teen passenger and no driving late at night (impose a curfew).

Novice teen drivers are categorized to be the highest risk for vehicular accidents.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, teenagers ages 16 to 19 has the highest risk for car crashes than any age group when compared on per mile driven with drivers age 20 and older. This age group (16 to 19) has the highest percentage in fatal crashes.

Substantial driver education provides no immunity from dangerous errors on the road.Teenage drivers are prone to errors. Driver improvement can help teenage drivers. Teen drivers are also prone to commit mistakes during their first year in driving.

In an effort to keep young drivers safe, here is a quick list of the 5 most common mistakes new drivers make. Read and help teen drivers avoid committing the same mistakes:

Behind-the-Wheel Distractions

According to, “11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.”

Texting and driving is prohibited in 39 states. Teenagers are easily distracted by loud music, rowdy behavior of passengers, texting, eating and grooming activities. It is best for the teenager to drive alone rather than drive with a passenger present. Remind your teen drivers to avoid using their cellphones while driving for there are legal consequences to this driving behavior. By paying total attention to the road, tell them they are safeguarding their  lives and of others. Driving is a dynamic activity and the road is a very challenging place, teenage drivers need all the abilities they have to stay safe and distracted driving is both illegal and dangerous.

Driving Too Fast

National Highway and Traffic Safety considers speed as a factor in one out of three fatal accidents. Teenagers are always in a hurry and it is possible that they will also drive using the same preference for quick and fast results. Patience is not a virtue among teens. They cannot wait to arrive to their destinations and sitting still is boring for them. They are always looking for thrills and some actions. This driving behavior can earn for teens traffic tickets that could be points against their license. Aside from the cost of the tickets, they might also lose their driving privilege and even result to life threatening injuries.


Teenagers have the tendency to follow other cars too closely. This mistake can make it difficult for them to react appropriately to changing road situations like a driver braking suddenly or swerving to change lane. Driving too closely increases the risk for accidents. Parents must advise their teen driver to keep a reasonable distance from the car in front. By tailgating, the teen driver has no room to move or act appropriately such as applying brakes when the car in front suddenly stops. Rear ending accidents can have fatal consequences such as inflicting neck injury to the driver in front.

Failing to Use Seat Belts

Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seatbelt use. Encourage your teen drivers to wear their seat belts no matter how short the ride is going to be. According to a news article, unbuckled occupants posed a danger to others. In the event of car crash, an unbuckled person can become a projectile that can fatally hurt others.

According to the Center for Disease Control, traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for teens in the U.S. Wearing a seat belt is a simple way for new drivers to ensure their safety. Yet the NHTSA states, “. . . the majority of teens (16 to 20 years old) continue to be unbuckled (56% in 2009).” Not only is it dangerous to drive without buckling in, but it is also illegal. In 49 states plus the District of Columbia, strict seat belt laws are enforced. New drivers can avoid annoying tickets by securing their seat belt before hitting the road.

Driving Under the Influence

It’s so disappointing to even put this on the list, yet according to the NHTSA, “car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about one-third of those are alcohol-related.” Sadly, drinking and driving is a huge problem for drivers of all ages, but especially teenagers. While all 50 states have a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving, it still happens excessively often.

Driving under the influence had claimed countless lives. Guide your teenagers on this issue. Alcohols and drugs impair driving performance by reducing reaction time, affecting vision and warping decision making abilities. Tell them to call you when they are drunk rather than drive. Driving under the influence has legal consequences that could impact their future forever.

I personally believe that there is still hope for teenage drivers. Parents play a crucial role in training their teen drivers to uphold safe driving practices. Coupled with good communication and loving relationship, parents can nurture their teen drivers into responsible drivers. Do not frustrate your teenagers with your lack of appreciation and approval. Sometimes their risk taking behaviors are their cry for attention and help. Let your teen drivers feel that your love is unconditional and that you are always there to provide the guidance, love and approval they are seeking from other people.

Teenagers do pick up their parent’s driving habits. Drivers, ages of 18-21, whose parents acquired three or more traffic violations were 38% more likely to have violations on their own driving records than teenagers whose parents had no violations. Therefore, parents are required to model responsible driving behavior that their teenage drivers can learned from.

Unfortunately, studies indicate that novice drivers take between five and seven years to become a mature driver. So parents do not withhold guidance and instruction for in the long run your patience and perseverance will result to having a responsible driver at home.

Photo “Teen Driver” copy right to State Farm

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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