Teen Driving

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens 14 and older. Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s have done extensive research on teen driving, including graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws:

  • Uncovering the mechanisms of how GDL reduces traffic crashes and examining the broader impact of GDL in both drivers and non-drivers:
    • GDL is more effective for 16-year-old drivers than 17-year-old drivers
    • No substantial increases in crashes were observed with 18-year-old drivers
    • GDL laws are associated with reductions in fatal crash rate per person-year among 16-year-old drivers; half of this reduction can be attributed to fewer crashes per miles driven and half can be attributed to less driving
    • GDL laws are associated with about a 20% reduction in driver fatalities and an 11% reduction in total fatalities among 16-year-old teens
    • In traffic injuries, GDL laws are associated with a 7% reduction in passenger injuries and a 13% reduction in driver injuries among 16-year-old teens
  • Evaluating the effects of Ohio’s 2007 revised GDL law on motor vehicle crashes and crash-related injuries for crashes involving teen drivers ages 16 to 20 years, with a focus on the effects on crashes involving drivers ages 18 to 20 years:
    • Compared with the pre-GDL period, the post-GDL period was associated with lower crash rates for drivers age 16 years, age 17 years, age 18 years, and ages 16-17 years combined
    • Crash rate was higher for the post-GDL period for drivers age 19 years, age 20 years, and ages 18-20 years combined 
    • Unlike previous studies, this investigation used linked data to evaluate the outcomes of all occupants in crashes involving drivers ages 16-20 years. The post-GDL period was associated with lower crash, injury crash, and fatal crash involvement among drivers and occupants ages 16-17 years but higher overall crash involvement for drivers and occupants ages 19 years, 20 years, and 18-20 years combined. 
    • These findings support extending GDL restrictions to novice drivers ages 18 through 20 years to reduce crashes in that group.

Current CIRP research related to teen driving includes:

  • Dr. Ginger Yang and Dr. Motao Zhu’s teams are currently conducting a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded study examining the effects of providing driving feedback, with and without parent communication training, on reducing risky driving events, unsafe driving behaviors, and subsequent traffic violations among teen drivers who have committed a traffic violation. 
    • The risk of car crashes is highest during the first six months of unsupervised driving, and the fatality rate per mile driven is highest at ages 16 to 17 years. 
    • Teen drivers who have committed a traffic violation have an increased risk for car crashes, car crash-related injuries and deaths compared to other drivers.  
    • Parent-focused interventions are an effective strategy to improve teens’ driving safety; however, few parent-interventions target teen drivers during the unsupervised driving phase and even fewer target high-risk teen drivers.
    • The long-term goal of this study is to reduce car crashes and car crash-related injuries and deaths among teen drivers who committed a traffic violation, and ultimately to inform future interventions that can be tailored to teen drivers based on their level of risk for a car crash. 

Findings from other CIRP research related to teen driving include:

  • Connecting motor vehicle occupant restraint use with effects on traffic outcomes
    • Ongoing analysis of police accident reports (injuries), Fatality Analysis Reporting System (deaths) and Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) databases (emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and financial charges) according to safety belt use among backseat passengers. 
    • Uses a national survey to examine self-reported motor vehicle occupant safety behaviors
  • Steering Teens Safe program
    • Steering Teens Safe (STS) is an evidence-based program developed and tested by the Center for Injury Research and Policy research team which targets parents’ effective engagement in motivating their teen to make safe driving decisions

For information specific to distracted driving (like texting and driving), please see CIRP’s page on distracted driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has extensive videos, comprehensive information, and recommendations related to teen driving, including distracted driving, drinking and drug use, drowsy driving, seatbelts, and parental influence. 

For media interviews with Dr. Motao Zhu about teen driving, please contact Nationwide Children’s Media Relations.

Additional Teen Driving Resources

  • Texting/Emailing While Driving Among High School Students in 35 States, United States, 2015
  • Cellphone Legislation and Self-Reported Behaviors Among Subgroups of Adolescent U.S. Drivers
  • An evaluation of the effect of Ohio's graduated driver licensing law on motor vehicle crashes and crash outcomes involving drivers 16 to 20 years of age
  • The association between handheld phone bans and the prevalence of handheld phone conversations among young drivers in the United States
  • Brief Report: The Association of Graduated Driver Licensing with Nondriver Transport-related Injuries Among Adolescents
  • The association between graduated driver licensing laws and travel behaviors among adolescents: an analysis of US National Household Travel Surveys
  • Association of Graduated Driver Licensing With Driver, Non-Driver, and Total Fatalities Among Adolescents