While some view teenage rebellion as a normal milestone in the transition to adulthood, a rebellious attitude can be dangerous while behind the wheel. Young drivers who ignore rules or appraise risk inaccurately may speed excessively, fail to use seat belts, or drive under the influence, often to disastrous results.
Recent roadway statistics from NHTSA show that teen speeding contributed to 27 percent of fatal teen driving accidents. We found that 78 percent of parents are concerned about their teen children speeding.
These fears appear well founded: 61 percent of teen drivers reported that they speed at least some of the time, and 23 percent said they speed often or always.
|Level of concern about teens’ speeding
||Percentage of parents of teen drivers
||Teen drivers’ speeding frequency
||Percentage of teen drivers
||Rarely or never
|Slightly or somewhat concerned
|Moderately or extremely concerned
||Often or always
Seat Belt Use
Most modern cars have alarms that remind drivers to fasten their seat belts, and 49 states require seat belt use, but many motorists still choose to drive unrestrained.
The NHTSA reported that compared to other drivers, teens are least likely to wear seat belts. Moreover, they found that nearly half of teen drivers killed behind the wheel were unbuckled at the time of their crashes.
We found that an overwhelming majority of teens wear seat belts almost every time they drive, though parents believe the rate is even higher.
Ignoring driving laws not only increases road dangers, but also invites legal complications. In today’s tense social climate, some drivers may consider police traffic stops more dangerous than traffic itself.
Two in three teen drivers felt confident that they could handle a traffic stop correctly, but teens were far more concerned than their parents about what could transpire after being pulled over.
This is a rare instance in our study where teens showed deeper worry than their parents. Overall, more than half of teen drivers had some concern about the outcome of a traffic stop, compared to only 30 percent of teens’ parents. Teen drivers from Black, Latino, Asian, Arab, or multiracial backgrounds were most concerned about traffic stops. Forty percent of teen drivers of color were extremely or moderately concerned, compared to 26 percent of white teen drivers. This is likely due to concerns about discriminatory traffic stop practices as well as police brutality.
Parents should seek to understand their teen’s worries and create opportunities for candid discussion. They can work together to find solutions that may ease anxieties, such as installing dashboard cameras. Parents can also help teens understand their legal rights during traffic stops and discuss the best ways to handle a traffic stop.5