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Sophomores or Seniors: Who Are the Safest Drivers?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Teen drivers typically gain driving skill and confidence with age and experience, but senior teens between ages 17 and 19 are more likely to test the boundaries of safe driving practices than younger teens.

Teenage Driving Safety

A 2017 Teen Driving Study of 2,800 high school teens shows that seniors exhibit riskier driving habits than sophomores. Seniors had a 57 percent accident rate, compared to 34 percent for sophomores. Older teens often think they are better drivers because of more driving experience, but studies show that they also take more risks. Older teens are 70 percent more likely to exhibit risky driving behaviors including:

  • Talking and texting on a cell phone
  • Changing radio stations and CDs
  • Taking dashboard videos
  • Crowding passengers into the car
  • Driving faster than the speed limit
  • Driving while drowsy or impaired

Older teens also say they fear fewer consequences from their parents if they have a car accident. While 70 percent of younger teens fear punishments from their parents if they crash the car, only 55 percent of older teens are concerned about parental reprisals like loss of driving privileges. Many seniors have their own vehicles, as well as part-time jobs, while most younger teens drive a family vehicle. In addition, many parents allow seniors more personal freedoms and fewer responsibilities, especially if they are graduating from high school and heading off to college.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of injuries and fatalities for teenagers is car accidents. Accident statistics show that teen drivers are three times more likely to be killed in a car accident than drivers over the age of 20 because of risky teen driving behaviors and lack of car safety procedures.

By discussing driving safety, injury and fatality risks, and driving rules and regulations, parents can help to promote safety and prevent car accidents. Since impaired driving is a major factor in teen fatalities, parents should talk to their teens about the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and certain medications that cause impaired thinking and motor skills. Teens should fully understand that they can be arrested and face steep fines and possible jail time if charged with a DUI offense. When teen drivers are well-informed on driving safety, they are much less likely to engage in risky behaviors that can put them and others in jeopardy.