How can teen driver fatalities be prevented?

The most important thing a parent can do to prevent a fatal crash is to set strict limits and make sure that all of the rules, both of the graduated licensing program and house rules set by the parents themselves, are followed.

Kara Macek, director of communications at the Governors Highway Safety Assocation (GHSA), says parents need to be the enforcers of teen driver laws – even more so than the police.

“We rely on parents to understand and engage,” says Macek.

It’s important for parents to not only know the laws, but understand why they exist, she says.

“The most important thing is to be totally open and honest, explain that the reason you’re doing this is that you love them and you don’t want to lose them or see them hurt,” says Macek.

Setting rules is important, but so is what your kids see you doing on the road. When it comes to safe driving, "do as I say, not as I do" isn't a good approach.

How parents can help keep teen drivers safe

Here are a few steps you can take as a parent to reduce the chances that your teen driver will be involved in an accident.

  • Enforce all of the rules. That includes those set by the state and those you've created for your own home. Don't be afraid to withdraw driving privileges.
  • Model good behavior. Make sure you are a good role model as a driver; follow all of the rules of the road, don't drink and drive, stay focused on the road and model safe habits like wearing your seatbelt.
  • Drive with your teen and practice in different conditions. Graduated licensing programs have a certain number of required hours behind the wheel practicing with an adult. Make sure those hours are in various road conditions to prepare you teen for bad weather and driving at night. And drive as many hours as you can, not just the bare minimum to get licensed.
  • Think safety first, not convenience. Even if it's more convenient to send your teen out behind the wheel, make sure it's safe. If the roads are really bad, it's late at night or there's some other reason for added risk, drive them yourself or skip whatever event they were planning to attend if possible.

Graduated driver licensing laws

Every state has some form of graduated program designed to ease teen drivers into the driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lists all of the laws in each state as well as driver education requirements to get a permit or a license.

The most common restrictions for teenage drivers under graduated driver licensing are:

  • Ban on using cell phones and texting while driving
  • Nighttime driving restrictions
  • Restrictions on passengers
  • Zero tolerance for alcohol and drug use

Most programs involve multiple steps, with restrictions loosening over time. Make sure your teen driver is following all of the rules of the graduated licensing program.

What are the common mistakes leading to teen driver fatalities?

Teen drivers are inexperienced and tend to lack the same judgment as adults on the road. While inexperience alone is a factor in crashes, there are other bad driving habits that increase the odds of a fatal crash.

Distracted driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 296 people died in 2021 in crashes involved teen drivers aged 15-19 who were distracted at the time of the crash.

Furthermore, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHP) Research Center reports that teen drivers who say they have used their cell phone while driving also engage in other risky behaviors on the road, like speeding, running red lights and passing impatiently.

Although teen drivers know texting and calling while driving is unsafe, they do it anyway, with tragic results. Make sure your teen uses driving mode on their phone, if available, or stores the phone out of reach while driving to minimize the temptation.


Teen drivers have been found to exceed speed limits more than adult drivers, potentially putting themselves and others at risk of a fatal accident.

In 2021, speed was a factor in 32% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers, according to the NHTSA. Make sure your teen understands the dangers of speed.

Passengers in the car

Teens with a passenger of their own age group in the car are 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behavior while driving, the NHSTA says. Furthermore, the risk of a fatal crash increases with each additional passenger in the car. More passengers often mean more distractions, which leads to fatal accidents.

Use of alcohol and drugs

Even though it's illegal for teens to drink, it remains common. The NHTSA says 19% of teen drivers aged 15-18 who were involved in a fatal accident in 2021 had been drinking. Other drugs can also play a role in accidents. It's vital as a parent to have a zero-tolerance stance on alcohol and drugs.

Keeping teen drivers safe: The bottom line

Teens make mistakes as they learn to drive; that's why it's so hard to find cheap teen car insurance. The more time you spend teaching your teen safe driving habits, they safer they'll be on the road. And remember: their driving rights are up to you. If the rules aren't being followed, you can have a teen's license revoked. They won't be happy, but they'll be safe.