Teen Drivers and Passengers Safety, Teens Ages 15 to 19 Years

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of unintentional deaths and hospitalizations for teens ages 15 to 19 years in New York State. Every year, the equivalent of about three high school classrooms, or 73 teens, are killed in motor vehicle crashes. Over 40 teens in this age group are treated and released from hospital emergency departments every day. Male teens are at greater risk of being fatally injured in a crash than females. Teens are more likely to be seriously injured in a crash if another teen is driving.

Many lives could be saved and injuries prevented if teen drivers and their passengers used safety belts. Safety belts reduce the risk of serious injuries in a crash by an estimated 50 percent to 83 percent.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in reducing the risk that your teen will be injured in a crash.

What are the leading causes of crashes and injuries involving teen drivers?

  • Most crashes involving 16 to 17 year old drivers are caused by speeding or driving at an unsafe speed for conditions, driving inattention or distractions, failing to yield the way to other drivers, following other vehicles too closely and driver inexperience.
  • Most teens and their passengers killed or seriously injured in crashes were not buckled up. The New York State Graduated Driver Licensing Law requires all occupants to be appropriately restrained when riding with a junior licensed driver.

When are teen drivers most likely to be involved in a fatal car crash?

Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash when driving at night. The New York State Graduated Driver Licensing Law restricts unsupervised night driving for junior licensed drivers and/or permit holders. To find more information about the restrictions in your county, see Where Do You Drive?

My teen is 16 years old and wants to get his/her driver's permit. What do we need to do?

Getting a driver's license can be a big milestone in a teen's life. Before your teen applies for a driving permit, consider the following when making your decision:

  • Is your teen mature enough to safely take on the responsibility of driving?
  • Who will teach your teen to drive?
  • Do you or another licensed adult have the time to supervise his/her driving?

For information about the driving permit application process, see What You Need to Know to Apply for a Learner Permit.

My teen has his/her learner's permit. What can I do to help him/her become a safe driver?

Driving may seem easy to learn to adults who have many years of experience behind the wheel. However, learning to drive can be very challenging to a new driver. It involves learning basic skills, developing judgment, decision-making skills and lots of practice time behind the wheel to become a good driver.

Driving instructors or driver education teachers can teach your teen the rules of the road and help your teen to learn and practice the basic driving skills. At least 50 hours of adult supervised driving is required before a teen driver takes the wheel without adult supervision, even if your teen has received driving instruction. Parents and teens should keep track of the hours they drive together and vary the driving experiences. For a driving practice log and information on suggested skills to practice go to The Parent's Guide to Teen Driving.

My teen just passed the road test and has a driver's license. Can other teens ride with him/her without an adult in the car?

Teens are more likely to get into a crash during the first six to twelve months of driving increasing the risk of injuries to his/her passengers. Most teens killed in crashes were riding in a vehicle driven by another teen.

Starting February 22, 2010, New York State law allows no more than one passenger under the age of 21 to ride with a junior licensed driver unless a parent, a guardian, or a driving instructor is in the vehicle. For more information, see the Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Safety experts recommend that newly licensed teenage drivers do not transport teenage passengers for the first 1,000 miles, or 6 months, of unsupervised driving. The risk of a fatal crash for a teen driver doubles with the presence of just one teen passenger. Each additional passenger increases the risk of a fatal crash.

What can I do to help my teen drive safely?

Teens whose parents set rules and limit driving privileges (such as driving at night, driving with teen passengers) are less likely to drive unsafely, get ticketed for driving offenses by police officers, and get in a crash.

A parent/teen driving agreement is a written contract that can be used by parents of teen drivers to manager teen driving after your teen gets his/her driver's license. The agreement should include driving restrictions, rules and consequences for breaking the rules.

As your teen gains more driving experience, displays safe driving skills, and proves he/she is a responsible driver, you can allow greater driving privileges over time. Even though your teen may be anxious to drive at night or give rides to his/her friends, keep the nighttime and passenger restrictions for at least the first six months of licensure. Start giving new privileges one at a time if your teen is crash and violation-free for the first six to 12 months after licensure. You can print a parent/teen driving agreement by visiting the American Academy of Pediatrics website. Some car insurance companies have teen driving safety information and this type of agreement.

Your teen is likely to adopt your driving behaviors and attitudes. Set a good example by always using seat belts, avoiding driving distractions, such as using cell phones, and obeying speed limits.

Is it safe for my children to ride with my teen driver?

New York State law allows members of the immediate family to ride with a junior license driver. However, studies find that young children are more likely to be seriously injured in a crash if a teen is driving. This is because teen drivers lack driving experience and judgment. Also, younger brothers or sisters may not listen to a teen driver and act in ways that may be distracting.

If you must rely on a teen driver to transport younger children, make sure he or she knows how to correctly use child safety seats and/or booster seats. A certified child passenger safety technician can provide hands-on installation education. To find a fitting station or child safety seat check-up event in your county, see Child Safety Seat Events Calendar.

What should I do if my teen will not comply with my safety rules?

If you are concerned about your teen's safety, you can withdraw your teen's driving privileges by completing a Withdrawal of Consent form and bringing it to your local Department of Motor Vehicles office.

Are there any other State laws I should be aware of?

  • New York State law prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices, such as cell phones, laptop computers, and smart phones.
  • New York State allows drivers to use hands-free cell phones.

Where can I find more information about teen driving safety?

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