Study: Teen Drivers, Passengers Increase Crash Risk

National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 21-27, presents opportunity to save lives


DENVER (Oct. 22, 2018) – Teen drivers put everyone on the roadway at risk of a deadly crash. That's the takeaway from a new AAA analysis of 2016 crash data, which found that 50 Coloradans were killed in crashes involving teen drivers. Importantly, 70 percent of all fatalities involving teen drivers were individuals other than the teen drivers themselves, underscoring the risks these drivers pose to everybody on the roads.

"By their very nature, teens tend to be less experienced and more reckless than any other group of drivers," said AAA spokesman Skyler McKinley. "In concert, those characteristics increase the odds of a deadly outcome -- not just for the teen driver but for their passengers and others on the roadways, including pedestrians and bicyclists." 

One surefire way to lower fatality rates? Don't let teens ride with other teens. New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all people involved in a crash increased 51 percent. In contrast, when older passengers (35 or older) ride with a teen driver, overall fatality rates decreased eight percent. 

Nationwide, in 2016, teen drivers were involved in more than 1 million police-reported crashes -- resulting in more than 3,200 deaths. AAA researchers pinpointed that when teens were carrying teen passengers, fatality rates jumped:

  • 56 percent for occupants of other vehicles
  • 45 percent for the teen driver
  • 17 percent for pedestrians and cyclists

"When you break down the data, it becomes clear that the risks posed by teen drivers are a public health issue," McKinley said. "In crashes where teen drivers are behind the wheel with a teen passenger, a majority of those killed are other road users. Parents need to take this rite of passage seriously by setting and consistently enforcing rules to limit teenage passengers in the vehicle." 

Supervised driving -- with parents in the passenger seat as the coach -- is the first step to teaching teens how to become responsible and safe drivers. Parents should:

  • Require teens to log at least 100 hours of supervised practice driving with a parent before driving solo.
  • Begin by practicing driving in low-risk situations and gradually move to situations that are more complex: Highways, nighttime, driving in the rain and snow, and on and around challenging roadways, such as mountain roads and those with sharp curves.
  • Allow no more than one non-family passenger under the age of 20 to ride with the teen driver during the first six months of driving.
  • Use slightly different routes each practice session.
  • Practice adjusting speed based on three factors: visibility, on-road traffic, and different road conditions.

"Strong coaching and diversity in practice driving sessions are key when teens have their learners permit," McKinley said. "And, once teens have their license, consistent parental involvement is essential. National Teen Driver Safety week is an excellent opportunity for parents to lay out the rules of the road."

AAA resources available for parents include the StartSmart Online Parent Session to coach their teen through the learning-to-drive process and Teaching your Teen to Drive, a one-hour live action DVD and illustrated in-car handbook that parents can use to support supervised driving lessons. These and other parent/teen resources are available at

About the Study
Data used in the Everyone's at Risk 2018 brief came from the 2016 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the Crash Report Sampling Survey System (CRSS). The FARS database includes all motor vehicle crashes on public roadways that resulted in a fatality within 30 days of crash. The CRSS database is a nationally representative probability sample of all police-reported crashed in the United States.

About the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation's mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit

About AAA Colorado
More than 680,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit