which age group most dangerous drivers

As a defensive driving instructor, one of the things I have noticed is that I have a large swath of age groups in my classes. If you believe only teens and millennial get tickets, you would be wrong. In my classes, I have senior citizens, teenagers, a lot of millennials, and a good share of boomers.

With that group of diverse ages, I also have students of all ages who are ticketed for car accidents. I have had seniors who were ticketed for failing to yield the right of way that resulted in a crash. My class has also has teens and millenials who have received tickets for failure to control speed or following too close, resulting in an accident.


Which Age Group makes
the Most Dangerous Drivers

When I talk with my students about their accidents, I’m most concerned with the accidents and attitudes of younger people. Mostly the teens and the younger Millennials. They seem to have been in worse accidents and have a more cavalier attitude about the severity of their crash. After hearing a younger person recall their accident, I usually say, “Do you know how lucky you were, that you didn’t die in that crash?” That question, is typically met with a “yeah” or a shrug.

It’s as if they don’t
look at their accident
as a serious event
in their life.

It’s as if they don’t look at their accident as a serious event in their life.

This should be a red flag. It should serve as a cautionary warning to the drivers and parents of teen drivers.

I always tell my class that the leading cause of death for people aged 4yrs – 34yrs is an automobile crash. I will tell teens and young millennials that they don’t have to worry about diseases that their 63 year old teacher has to, but they should be concerned about dying in a car accident.

So who are the most dangerous drivers? Is it new teenagers who have recently been licensed or younger millennial who take risks without worry? Is it older drivers like me, who may have difficulty with vision and reaction time?

According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study I found online, younger Millennials are the most dangerous drivers. The results were from a survey of 2500 drivers with questions about risky behaviors.

Here are the result of what drivers ages are the most dangerous based on admission of risky behaviors.

  1. 19 – 24 years old
  2. 25 – 39 years old
  3. 40 – 59 years old
  4. 16 – 18 years old
  5. 60 – 74 years old

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, millennials age 19-39 are the worst drivers. The younger Millennial drivers in their early 20s are very dangerous in terms of risky driving. Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said, “Some of the drivers aged 19-24 believe that their dangerous driving behavior is acceptable.”

So does that mean more millennials die behind the wheel more than teens and seniors?

No. The survey is on admission of risky behaviors.

Statistically more teens die from automobile crashes than millennials. In the graph of from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 16-17 year olds have the highest auto fatality rates. (2014-2015). Next is the younger millennial. Then there is a leveling out until ages 70 years and up. The death rates jump even higher for seniors ages 80+.

According to the graphs from the AAA Foundation for Traffic safety, teens ages 16-17 were in the most crashes, the most injury crashes, and nearly the most fatal crashes. The only group higher in the amount of fatalities was the above 80 age group. Oddly, seniors actual crash rate is on the lower end. The fact that older seniors are physically more fragile which could be why they lead in the highest fatality rate.


This Doesn’t Mean Teen Drivers Are Safe

From the CDC web site, in 2017 2,364 teens in the US were killed and about 300,000 were treated in emergency rooms for motor vehicle crashes. From the stats, 6 teens ages 16-19 died every day in the US of auto crashes.

Teens are three times more likely than drivers 20 and older to be in a fatal car crash.

Teen drivers with the highest risk:

  • Males: In 2017, the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers age 16-19 was two times higher than the death rate for female drivers of the same age.
  • Teens with Passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen  drivers. The risk increases even more with increased number of teen passengers.
  • Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly higher during the first month of licensure.


Risk Factors for Teen Drivers

Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate or not be able to recognize dangerous situations. Teens are more likely to make critical decision errors.

Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and not allow for safe following distance.

Driving Distracted
Teens are more likely to be driving while using their electronic devices than older drivers.

Seat Belt Use
Teens and young adults have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2017 only 58% of high school students said they used seat belts. In 2017, young drivers aged 15-20 who died in a car accident were unrestrained.

Driving impaired
Teens have a tendency to take chances and drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or other substances.

Night time and Weekend driving
In 2017 40% of motor vehicle crash deaths among teen drivers and passengers age 13 – 19 occurred between 9pm – 6am. And 51% occured on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.


Reducing Dangers to Young Drivers

Is there a way to reduce teen driver fatality and accident statistics?

One of the programs that reduces the rates of teen accidents is the Graduated Driver’s License System. The GDL is designed to provide new drivers of motor vehicles with driving experience and skills gradually over time in low risk environments. The young driver obtains a license in three stages as they progress in experience and age. It starts with a learners permit, followed by a provisional license and then on to their full license.

Take the following steps to get your teen to be a safer driver: 

Be a good role model
Kids tend to be like their parents. Parents should be a good role model by avoiding risky driving behavior. It starts with always wearing a seat belt. Parents shouldn’t drive aggressive by speeding or tailgating. Mom and Dad should always drive focused on the driving task. Parents should never drive distracted by phone use.

Share your personal experiences
Most experienced drivers have had their share of close calls, fender benders, and serious collisions. Tell the young drivers in your family about yours, especially if they illustrate how a second of poor judgement became something more serious. A lot of young drivers can tune out statistics about strangers, but the story of how Dad hit a tree because he didn’t like the song on the radio will stick with them.

Have a talk with your teens
Talk with you teens about the dangers of risky driving behaviors like speeding or driving distracted. Make your teen sign or agree to a pledge of not texting and driving.

Download phone apps that will prevent your teen from using the phone while driving.

Do not call or text your teen when they are driving. And tell them repeatedly that if someone calls or texts them, they should wait until they’re parked somewhere to answer or reply, even if that person is you.

Limit Passengers
Most states have limits on the number of passengers a young driver can have in their vehicle with a provisional license. Remember that increasing the number of passengers, increases the risks of getting into a crash.

Zero tolerance on driving impaired or texting while driving
A parent must set serious consequences when a teen is caught driving under the influence or texting and driving. Speeding is also a risky behavior that should result in consequences. Explain to your teen that driving is a privilege and they will lose that privilege if caught engaging in risky behind the wheel behaviors.


So Which Age Group is Most Dangerous?

From my classes and experience as a defensive driving instructor I am going to split the title of “most dangerous drivers” between teens and early 20s.

I listen to their stories and observe their attitudes and believe that 16 to 25 year olds are the most dangerous drivers on our roadways.

Even so, I have had people in their mid 40s who were involved in very serious accidents. I have senior citizens who have been sent to my class for a traffic ticket as a result of an accident.

Whether it’s from from risky behavior, complacency in their driving skill or in underestimating their shortcomings as an aging driver, I believe there are dangerous drivers in all age groups.