The Dangers of Teen Driving, and How to Avoid Them


Brian Sinks

Many high school students are anxious to get their driver’s licenses and get on the road. Giving far more freedom to teens in unwalkable areas, with the ability to go wherever, whenever, after being tied to parents or other adults their whole life, it’s obvious to see why. However, driving is one of the most dangerous things done on a day-to-day basis, usually without a second thought. Just how quickly a car becomes a coffin isn’t always realized, but understanding the risks helps avoid any such accidents. 

Teenagers 16-19 make up only 3% of all drivers on the road but make up 9% of all crashes in the U.S., and 6% of fatal crashes. A lack of experience and maturity are the main factors at play here. Without experience, it’s easy to react poorly to new situations, and new drivers may simply not recognize dangerous situations. 

 Another factor is having friends in the car. It’s easy to get carried away in a conversation and end up missing a stop sign or vehicle pulling out in front of an oncoming car, and it’s usually just a matter of time until luck runs out. Studies have shown the risk of a young driver being in an accident increases by 44% with a single passenger, increasing to 88% with 2 passengers and 160% with 4. This isn’t to say not to carry along friends in the car (in fact, having those few fewer cars on the road is safer for everyone), but staying focused on the road is far more important than a conversation that can be saved for later.

It’s very common for younger people to not wear seatbelts as well. Usually, these people will claim that with modern safety technology, seat belts aren’t a necessity. And while it’s true that new cars have massively improved the safety of the occupants in many ways, the chances of survival are determined by the weakest link. Without a seatbelt restraining your body, you will be thrown into the steering column as the airbag is deploying, causing injuries from the speed of the bag and pressing up against uncovered parts of the wheel. From there, you can either be sent downward, getting jammed into the footwell; or you may be ejected from the vehicle at lethal speeds. Even before a crash, ending up on rough terrain could send you into a position making it impossible to control the vehicle, causing a crash that could’ve been avoided. No matter what way you slice it, any slight discomfort caused by seat belts heavily outweighs the cons of not wearing one.

Of course, there’s the danger of driving under the influence. Any type of substance use can affect vital functions for driving, such as reflexes and depth perception. An average person has a reaction time of 0.5-0.75 seconds, and even under legal limits of alcohol, can be reduced by over 30%. In Ohio, the legal limit of blood alcohol content is 0.08%. However, if it has noticeably affected driving abilities, arrests can be made for DUI as low as 0.03%. 

It’s not just alcohol, of course. Any substance can negatively affect driving ability and lead to a DUI arrest. Marijuana can majorly hurt reaction times, and decision-making, and cause distortion. Even if people feel perfectly capable of driving, these little details may sneak up down the road.

Education is yet another factor. While many people go through quality driver’s Ed programs, some may not be as fortunate. With a high cost out of many reach and a rather tight schedule that conflicts with sports or work, many just wait until they’re 18 and can go straight to the test. everyone should attempt to educate themselves as much as possible about the technicalities of the roads. Roads are often confusing and overwhelming, and properly understanding how it all works together gives drivers a massive advantage.

Overall, while driving is a very important ability in most areas, it’s all too easy to forget the risk driving puts everyone in every second spent on the road. Staying aware and making educated calls on when it’s safe to drive is a simple step that can avoid so much pain.