KSNF/KODE — Each year, thousands of teens lose their lives in car crashes, and hundreds of thousands are treated in emergency departments for injuries related to motor vehicle crashes.

For years, traffic crashes have been the number one teenage killer in America.

According to a report put together by Zutobi (a driver’s education platform) on U.S. teen road fatalities, 2020 saw the most young driver fatalities since 2011.

The number of young driver and passenger fatalities increased by 19.5% in 2020, compared to the previous year (Note: Driving statistics takes time to collect. This report features the latest data released in 2022).

There were a total of 2,966 young driver (ages 15 to 20) fatalities in 2020.

You have to go back to 2011 to find a higher number of yearly teenage driving deaths, which totaled 3,187 that year.

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Zutobi attributes three main causes of fatal teen driving accidents: Alcohol consumption, speeding and distracted driving.

  • Consumption of Alcohol

Despite alcohol consumption illegal for those under the age of 21, young drivers’ consumption of alcohol remains a large cause of teenage traffic fatalities, with 523 teen drivers killed in DUI crashes in 2020.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has gathered several studies on the subject of teens’ alcohol consumption that together show that more young people die in fatal crashes when the drinking age is lowered.

  • Speeding

A recent study from the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) found that from 2015 to 2019, teen drivers and passengers had a greater proportion of speeding-related fatalities (43%) than all other age groups (30%), with 4,930 teen drivers and passengers dying in speeding-related crashes.

  • Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is defined as driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving.

Due to the nature of being less focused on driving, distracted driving will drastically increase the chance of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.

Speaking on a mobile phone while driving increases crash risk by 2 times, while texting increases the crash risk by up to 6 times.

State Statistics

Kentucky has the most teenage driving fatalities in the country, with 71 deaths per 100,000 teenage drivers.

The second worst state is North Carolina (45 deaths), followed by Arkansas (44 deaths).

Missouri ranks 12th with 30 deaths, while Oklahoma is 24th (23 deaths).

Kansas has one of the lowest percentage of teenage driving fatalities in the U.S., ranking 44th out of 50 with 14 deaths per 100,000 teenage drivers.

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Most of the injury data in this report has been gathered using the NHTSA crash data tool and the Fatality and Injury Reporting System (FIRST).

Data from the Federal Highway Administration was used to find the number of licensed teenage drivers.

Lowering The Numbers

Studies have shown that teenage drivers are much more likely to be involved in a serious road accident from the moment they start driving, without the supervision of a licensed driver.

Many of these accidents can be attributed to distracted driving, speeding, and lack of scanning.

This suggests a changed behavior when driving alone, which may be due to overconfidence and insufficient (or bad) driver education, among other reasons.

Zutobi states that teenage drivers need to understand the reason why they must follow driving safety practices, not just the fact that they exist.

Furthermore, the driver’s education program claims that teenage drivers should study to become safe and responsible drivers, not just to pass the permit test.

Unfortunately, it’s often the other way around.

Creating a proper foundation at an early stage is pivotal when it comes to making safe drivers and reducing the number of teenagers killed in driving accidents, states Zutobi.

You can read their full report on U.S. teenage road fatalities, HERE.