City of Ukiah, California

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Teen Drivers

Teen Drivers

Want to know when teenagers are most at risk of a collision? Hint: It’s not Friday or Saturday night.

According to a recent survey by the American Automobile Association, teenagers are most likely to die in traffic collisions after school, between 3:00 and 6:00 PM on weeknights.

Here’s why:

First, lots of young drivers are on the road right after school—heading home, to sports practices, or to afterschool jobs. Also, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. overlaps with rush hour.

Second, studies show that teenagers’ brains haven’t finished developing. So, unlike adults, they feel invincible and don’t really understand the perils of risky behaviors like speeding or passing too closely. It is this sense of invincibility that can quickly get a teenage driver into trouble.

As you contemplate a conversation with your teenager about the risks they face while driving, here are some facts you may want to share:

  1. In 2010, a third of all deaths among 13 to 19 year olds occurred in motor vehicle crashes.
  2. 16 year olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
  3. 56 percent of teens admitted to talking on the phone while driving.
  4. Statistics show that 16- and 17-year-old-driver death rates increase with each additional passenger.
  5. Only 44 percent of teens said they would definitely speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them.
  6. Teen drivers with involved parents are twice as likely to wear seat belts.
  7. Talking on a cell phone can double the likelihood of an accident, as well as slow a young driver’s reaction time down to that of a 70-year-old.
  8. 20 percent of 16-year-old drivers has an accident during their first year of driving.

While these facts are terrible, I hope that at least one of them might help your teenager understand the dangers they face as they start driving. But having raised teens of my own, I know that getting through to your teen can be difficult.

Think for a moment about when you passed your driver’s test and drove a car by yourself for the first time. It is one of those memories we just don’t forget, that feeling of freedom. But add that freedom to a teenager’s feeling of invincibility and you can quickly create a dangerous recipe.

So, what do the experts say about protecting your teens when they first start to drive?

First, it’s important to talk with them early and often about the dangers they face. We all know that teenagers know way more than us (at least in their minds), and convincing them of these driving dangers might just take some patience from Mom and Dad.


Second, don’t be afraid to establish rules for your new teenage driver, such as mandatory seatbelts and no cell phones or iPods. Let your teen know they will face consequences if they break the rules. One recent survey by an insurance company found that students whose parents lay down the law are less likely to exhibit risky behaviors like speeding, driving under the influence, or carrying three or more passengers in the car.

Consider imposing consequences that would make them stop and think; for example, having one traffic ticket equal no car privileges for a month, or cleaning the house for a year–your choice. Whatever you choose, please make sure your teen understands that they are ultimately solely responsible for their actions.

Automobile crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among teens and we need to change that. If we can help teens realize they are not invincible, and remind them to keep two eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel, we will save lives.

Finally, take some time to review with your teen; it’s a great resource to keep teens safe. 

As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website:  

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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service