Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States – ahead of all other types of injury, disease, or violence. Contributing factors include alcohol/drug use, seat belt nonuse, and speeding. On the other hand, parents and other caring adults can help reduce youth risk by sharing your concerns with teens in your life. 

• Alcohol and Drugs:  Nationally, in 2018, 16% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. Marijuana also affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings, distorts perceptions, and affects information processing, all-important driving skills. Driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.  

 • Seat Belts:  In 2018, almost half (45%) of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died were unbuckled. Seat belts also contribute to survival rates for passengers too. When the teen driving in the fatal crash was unbuckled, 9 out of 10 passengers who died were also unbuckled. 

 • Speeding: In 2018, almost one-quarter (28%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. Likewise, males were more likely to be involved in more fatal crashes than females.

Similarly, distracted driving, the number of passengers, and drowsy driving also contribute to teen crashes and deaths.

In 2019, Iowa lost 39 young drivers between the ages of 14 – 20 in motor vehicle crashes. Seven of those drivers had a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit. Behavioral Health and Treatment Services encourage adults to talk to teens about these risks and what steps to take to be safe drivers.

 (Statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Iowa Department of Public Safety)