Single vehicle crash

Teens and Nighttime Single Vehicle Crashes

As you read the daily news, a familiar pattern begins to occur. You begin to notice the car crashes that happen at night with only one vehicle involved. Many times, these crashes involve teen drivers.

Is it your imagination? No.

Many typical characteristics of teen crashes are:

  • Teens are more likely than any other age group to be involved in a single vehicle crash. Among passenger vehicle drivers’ ages 16-19 involved in fatal crashes in 2008, 49 percent were involved in single-vehicle crashes. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Nighttime fatal crash rates for 16 year olds are nearly twice as high as daytime rates. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • In 2008, 37 percent of the 15- to 20-year-old male drivers who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.

Nighttime driving not only diminishes a driver’s visibility, but also their distance and speed perception, making it harder to judge a situation and respond quickly. Speeding decreases the time and space available to react and increases the severity of any injuries. Many times teenagers react too quickly and overcorrect or lose control of the vehicle, resulting in a single-vehicle crash. Drowsy driving is also more prevalent at night, and teens are especially vulnerable to fatigue and need additional sleep during this developmental time. In addition, other drivers on the road are more likely to be less attentive, drowsy or under the influence at night.

What can be done?

Create and enforce stricter Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) laws that give teens the privilege of driving but limit their exposure to higher risk situations encountered, by restricting nighttime driving, teen passengers and cell phone use. Experience behind the wheel is best gained in the daytime when accompanied by an experienced adult driver and under ideal driving conditions. GDL has proved successful in reducing crashes and fatalities among teen drivers as they progress to unrestricted driving at age 18.

Teens are ready to drive and need to be given the tools to drive safely. Understand the risk factors that young teen drivers face and place limits on driving privileges until they acquire the valuable experience needed to develop those tools safely.