Car Accidents are the Number One cause of Teenage Deaths

What is the number one cause of teen fatalities? Unsurprisingly, car accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths. Any parent in Philadelphia knows that teen drivers are new to the roads and lack experience. Rates for teen driver deaths do seem to be declining over the past few decades. However, the rates of death resulting from vehicle accidents are still the highest among the teenage age group. States, including Pennsylvania, have taken several steps to try to reduce these numbers even more.

Teen Driver Statistics

There are fewer teens driving on the road than older drivers. However, the number of fatalities of teen drivers is disproportionately higher than the rates of deaths of other drivers. In 2018, the rate of death for drivers aged 16 to 19 was three times higher than drivers over the age of 20. In 2017, over 1,800 teen drivers between the ages of 15 to 19 passed away as the result of a car accident. While still a high number, it was actually a 4% decrease from the rates in 2016.

It is not just teen drivers that are at risk. Any teenagers in the car have a higher risk of death after an accident, even if they are just a passenger. In 2018, there were over 2,400 deaths of teens from ages 13 to 19. Many of them were passengers in the car and were not driving. One reason for the higher death rate of teen passengers is that having multiple teens in a car can lead to distracted driving. This is especially true if a teen driver is transporting other teens around. Cell phone use of others in the car or friends talking can easily make a new driver take their eyes off of the road.

Who is the most at Risk?

There are some teen groups that are more at risk for death if they are in a vehicle accident. Male teen drivers have a higher rate of deaths resulting from car accidents. In 2017, teen males were twice as likely to die in a car accident than female teen drivers.

Since 1975, the number of male teen deaths from car accidents has declined faster than females. However, the death rates of male teens resulting from crashes are still higher than their female counterparts. Teens driving with other teens in the car and newly licensed drivers are also groups that are more likely to have a serious injury or death that results from a car accident.

There are several risk factors that also make serious injury or death to teens more likely in a motor vehicle accident. These include:

In 2018, more teenagers died in car accidents over the summer months. July had the highest rate of deaths. Over 52% of teen fatalities occurred on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The highest rate of teen fatalities occurred between the times 6 pm and 9 pm. This means that the most unsafe time for teen drivers is when they may be unaccompanied or have a lot of free time in the summer, on the weekends, or in the evenings.

How to lower the risk of Teen Deaths in Car Accidents

In the 1990s states started making more laws to protect teen drivers. These include having graduated licensing systems where drivers slowly get the full right to drive. This usually starts with being allowed to drive with a parent in the car. Then, after testing, they are allowed to drive on their own. Other initiates that have helped lower death rates include restricting nighttime driving of teens and raising the legal age to drive.

In Pennsylvania, car accidents are the leading cause of deaths for all residents from ages 16 to 24. To combat these statistics, the state has put forward several initiates to help lower teen deaths from car accidents. These include offering license plates specifically made for teens and creating a National Teen Driver Safety Week to promote safe driving.

There are also several regulations and laws in place in Pennsylvania. The purpose is to lower teen deaths from car accidents and to promote safe driving. These include a six-month learning period for drivers, junior driver status, nighttime driving restrictions after 11 pm, learner’s permits for one year, and limiting the number of passengers a teen driver can have in their car at one time. There are also higher penalties if a teen driver breaks a law like a longer driver’s license suspension period.


Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC
123 S Broad St #1220
Philadelphia, PA 19109
(215) 875-7030