Who Causes More Car Accidents: Teens or Seniors?

A common perception of both teenagers and seniors is they are unsafe drivers and get into many car accidents. For teens, it’s due to inexperience and the recklessness of youth. And for seniors, as people age, their mental faculties and reaction times diminish. However, which age group, in reality, causes more car accidents: teens or seniors?

Teenagers cause more car accidents than seniors

Teenager on a car and a senior driving, highlighting whether teens or seniors cause more car accidents
Side-by-side profile of teen and senior drivers | Averie Woodard and Wonderlane via Unsplash

Teens cause more car accidents than seniors. According to the United States Census Bureau, teenage drivers cause 12% of car accidents. In comparison, seniors, or drivers over the age of 65, cause only 7.5% of accidents. 

The first few years after a teenager gets a driver’s license are the most dangerous of all age groups, as detailed by the Traffic Safety Store. Drivers that are between 16-19 years old are three times more likely to get in a car crash than drivers over 20, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Why are teen drivers the most dangerous age group?

The teenage years can be a nervous time for parents as their sons and daughters get behind the wheel of a car. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S., nearly 2,400 teenagers were killed and around 258,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in car crashes in 2019.

There are several reasons why teen drivers are the most dangerous age group. One of the biggest reasons is inexperience. Young drivers are still learning how to drive a car and the rules of the road. Also, teens tend to be more impulsive, and when you couple that with inexperience, you have a recipe for disaster.

Teens are also more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors. This includes speeding and tailgating other cars. Also, teens don’t wear seatbelts as often compared to other age groups. As detailed by Nitsche & Fredricks, 20% of teens don’t regularly wear a seatbelt. Additionally, despite not being able to legally drink alcohol, teenagers are more likely than any other age group to get into drunk-driving accidents. 

Another reason for the high car accident rate for teenagers is distracted driving. Texting friends and taking selfies on smartphones are popular teen activities. And when using a smartphone while driving, the chances of getting in a car crash significantly increase.

Car accident rate could decrease for both teens and seniors

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The news isn’t all dire for teenagers. With the advances in active safety and driving assistance technologies, cars are safer than ever before. These advances benefit not only teen drivers but also seniors and all other age groups. 

Also, all 50 states now have a Graduated Drivers Licensing GDL program, which helps reduce car accidents for teenagers. Additionally, advocacy groups, such as the Teen Driver Source, are raising awareness of risk factors for teenage drivers. This includes distracted driving, impulsive road behavior, drunk driving, and not using a seatbelt. 

Furthermore, fewer teenagers are getting their driver’s licenses. Also, when they do, they drive fewer miles. These trends accelerated during the pandemic, but they started before it. 

As statistics show, teens cause more car accidents than seniors. However, regardless of the demographic, road safety is an important issue for all age groups. Fortunately, with increased awareness and advances in safety technologies, there might be fewer accidents in the future.

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