Teen Driver Safety

Teen Driver

Teen and new driver inexperience, coupled with immaturity, often results in risk-taking behaviors such as speeding, alcohol use and not wearing a seat belt — all of which contribute to an increased death rate. 

Young drivers are nearly four times more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic crash than their older counterparts. Despite that disparity, research conducted by GHSA found that crash and fatality rates for drivers under 21 have improved drastically between 2002 and 2021 – more so than for other drivers (Young Drivers and Traffic Fatalities: 20 Years of Progress on the Road to Zero, GHSA).

Image showing the cover a report titled Young Drivers and Traffic Fatalities: 20 Years of Progress on the Road to Zero

The analysis found that fatal crashes involving a young driver fell 38%, while they increased nearly 8% for drivers 21 and older. At the same time, deaths of young drivers fell about 45%, compared to an 11% increase in fatalities for older drivers. Young people are less likely to drive today than they were 20 years ago, but this accounts for only a small portion of the large decreases.

GHSA Policy

Click here to view GHSA's Policy and Priorities on Teen Drivers

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

To keep teen drivers safer on the roads, all states have enacted Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws that phase in driving privileges. Experts agree that a well-designed GDL program includes the following:

  • Learner's stage beginning no earlier than age 16 and:
    • Lasting at least 6 months
    • With at least 30-50 hours of parent-certified supervised practice
  • Intermediate stage that lasts until at least age 18 and includes:
    • Nighttime driving restriction starting at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.
    • No (or no more than one) teen passengers
  • A ban on all cellphone use and electronic communication devices

Research has shown that significant reductions in deaths have been associated with GDL laws that included age requirements, a waiting period of at least three months before the intermediate stage, a restriction on nighttime driving, 30 or more hours of supervised driving and a restriction on carrying passengers or the number and age of passengers carried.

Parental Involvement

In addition to laws, parents also play a key role in helping teens become good drivers. Parents should not rely solely on driver education classes to teach good driving habits and should restrict night driving, restrict the numbers of passengers riding with their teen, supervise practice driving, always require use of seat belts and choose vehicles for safety, not image. Parents can also set a good example by practicing safe driving themselves.

Ford Driving Skills for Life

To supplement driver education, GHSA and Ford Philanthropy developed Ford Driving Skills for Life (Ford DSFL), an innovative program that teaches newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs, creating safer roadways for not only themselves but everyone else on the road.



Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs allow young drivers to safely gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges.

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