CDC Says 1/3 of Fatal Car Accidents Involving Teenage Drivers Occur at Night

Posted on Aug 08, 2016

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31 percent of fatal car accidents involving teen drivers (16- and 17-year-olds) between 2009 and 2014 occurred at night.

Additionally, over the six-year period, both the proportion of all 16- or 17-year-old drivers involved in nighttime fatal crashes and the proportion of fatal crash involvements occurring before midnight nearly doubled.

The CDC’s study proved what many lawmakers across the country already knew; young, inexperienced drivers should not drive unsupervised late at night. While many states have night driving restrictions (NDRs), the CDC argues the laws we currently have in place may not be enough.

Current Restrictions Placed on Young Drivers in the United States

Because of the inherent dangers new drivers face when driving late at night, 49 states across the U.S. and the District of Columbia currently have NDRs in their Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) systems. Only Vermont has no NDRs.

Under these night restrictions, young drivers who only have their learner’s permit cannot drive after certain hours at night without adult supervision. For example, in Georgia, drivers with a GDL cannot drive unsupervised between midnight and 5:00 a.m.

The problem is, of the 31 percent of fatal crashes, 57 percent of those crashes took place before 12:00 a.m. Twenty-three states, including Georgia, and in the District of Columbia, nighttime driving restrictions do not start until midnight or later.

How did Georgia compare to the nation?

As we stated above, Georgia’s GDL systems, which covers drivers under the age of 18, prohibits young drivers from driving unsupervised between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

During the years of the study, there were 253 total young drivers involved in fatal crashes in Georgia. Seventy-one of these crashes occurred at night. This means that fewer teenage Georgian drivers are involved in fatal nighttime crashes than the national average of 31 percent.

This is a step in the right direction, however, of the crashes that did occur at night in Georgia, 69 percent of them happened before midnight, while it is still legal for young drivers to get behind the wheel without supervision. 

The CDC Recommends Improving Night Driving Restrictions to Save Lives

Based on the results of the study and the fact that nearly all of the night driving trips taken by teen drivers between 16 and17 end before midnight, the CDC argues that NDRs which start at midnight or later only provide “minimal protection.”

If states wish to reduce the total fatal crashes among newly licensed teen drivers, they should update their NDRs to start at an earlier hour. The authors of the study also fully recommended the continued enforcement of laws already known to reduce fatal crashes involving teen drivers, such as seatbelt laws and minimum legal drinking age laws.

Parents can also get involved. To keep your teens safe behind wheel, make sure they are not texting and driving, allowing passengers to distract them, or driving recklessly.

For more information on keeping your teen safe, check out our blog