Get the Facts About Sixteen and Seventeen Year-Old Drivers in New York State*

pyramid chart showing statistics

How big is the problem?

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional deaths for teens (16-17) in New York State.
  • Every day, approximately 12 people are killed or seen in hospitals due to car crashes caused by a teen driver.

What is the cost?

In 2011, injuries caused by teen drivers resulted in almost $22 million in hospital charges in New York State. The average hospital stay for a teen driver injured in a crash lasts almost four days and results in more than $34,000 in charges.

Who is most at risk?

  • Newly Licensed Teens

    Newly licensed teens are at highest risk of a car crash during the first months of driving unsupervised.

  • Male Teen Drivers

    Male teen drivers are more likely to be involved, seriously injured, or killed in a car crash than their female counterparts.

  • Teen Passengers

    Teen passengers (16-20 years old) are three times more likely to be killed in a car crash when riding with a teen driver.

  • Child Passengers

    Child passengers (7-15 years) are almost four times as likely to be killed in a crash when riding with a teen driver.

What factors put teen drivers at risk?

New York State, 2011
Incapacitating & Fatal Injuries
Crash Contributing Factors Driver's Age
16-17 yrs 25-49 yrs
Unsafe Speed 22% 11%
Driver Inexperience 7% 1%
Failure to Yield Right of Way 7% 4%
Driver Distraction* 8% 7%
Alcohol Involvement 4% 8%
* Driver Distraction includes the contributing factors of Driver Inattention/Distraction, Passenger Distraction, Cell Phone (hand held), Cell Phone (hands-free), Other Electronic Device and Outside Car Distraction.
  • Driver Inexperience

    Teens are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations and less likely to recognize hazardous situations when driving.

  • Night Driving

    Thirty-five (35) percent of crashes resulting in fatalities of teen drivers and their passengers occur between 9:00 pm and 5 am.

  • Safety Belt Use

    In 2011, every month an average of 43 teen drivers and their teenage passengers (15-19) who did not wear a seat belt were injured severely enough to require hospital treatment. Teen drivers and their passengers are almost five times more likely to be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury if they are not properly restrained.

  • Impaired Driving

    Teen drivers involved in impaired driving crashes were 23 times more likely to suffer from a fatal injury than those who were not. Teen drivers involved in impaired driving crashes are eight times more likely not to buckle up.

  • Driving Distractions

    Distracted driving is the leading contributing factor of all crashes involving teen drivers. Every day, five teen drivers are involved in crashes where distraction was a contributing factor. Teens driving with one teen passenger (16-20 years old) increases the risk of being killed in a crash by 40% and quadruples when carrying three or more teen passengers. Female teen drivers are slightly more likely to be involved in distraction-related crashes than their male counterparts.

  • Unsafe Speed

    Every day, four teen drivers are involved in crashes where unsafe speed is a contributing factor. Male teen drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes as a result of unsafe speed than their female counterparts.

What are the leading causes of teen car crashes?

  • Unsafe speed is the leading contributing factor of crashes that result in incapacitating and fatal injuries for teens, followed by driver inexperience, failure to yield, and driver distraction.
  • Teen drivers are at fault in 77% of crashes resulting in incapacitating and fatal injuries. Their more experienced counterparts, drivers aged 25-49 years old, are at fault 57% of the time.
chart showing inpatient hospitalizations of teen drivers

How can deaths and injuries resulting from crashes involving teen drivers be prevented?

  • Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) Laws. The GDL helps new drivers gain experience under low-risk conditions by granting driving privileges in stages. For more information about New York State GDL provisions, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles website.
  • The yearly rate of motor vehicle crash related hospitalizations for teen drivers ages 16-17 decreased over 60% between 2003, the year the New York State GDL was implemented, and 2011.
  • In 2010, changes to the New York State GDL limited the number of passengers in a vehicle operated by a junior license holder, as well as increasing the length of time a permit must be held and number of supervised driving hours needed before scheduling a road test.
  • Parental management of teen driving. When parents know their state's GDL laws, they can help enforce the laws and, in effect, help keep their teen drivers safe. A parent/teen driving agreement is one tool to help parents set and enforce driving rules during the first year of unsupervised driving. A sample contract is available on the Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Where can I find more information and resources?

For more information, please contact the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention at injury@health.ny.gov.

* Unless otherwise specified, "teen driver" refers to 16 and 17 year-old drivers.