Young drivers more likely to drink, get distracted, NHTSA survey says

January 16, 2020

Mark Schremmer


Drivers ages 16 to 21 are more likely to engage in risky behavior, results from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey show.

NHTSA’s Young Driver Survey indicated that the increase in risky behavior is a factor in why young drivers represented 9% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 even though they accounted for only 5% of the total number of licensed drivers in the United States.

“The overrepresentation of young drivers in crashes and road fatalities is a serious public health concern and imposes substantial human, social, and economic costs,” the NHTSA survey stated.

“The higher levels of risk associated with young drivers primarily result from factors of inexperience but are also aggravated by the circumstances under which numerous young people drive.”

Nearly 18,000 drivers aged 16-21 years old participated in the survey.

Some of the key takeaways from the NHTSA survey include:

  • 47% believed that a driver could take their eyes off the road for 3 or more seconds without putting themselves in danger.
  • 23% said a person could have five or more cans of light beer in a 2-hour period before they would not be able to drive safely.
  • 40% reported talking on cellphones on at least some of their driving trips.
  • 25% reported reading texts on at least some of their driving trips.
  • 10% reported sending texts on at least some of their driving trips.
  • 25% said they had been stopped at least once by police in the previous year with speeding being the most common reason given for those who received a ticket.
  • 25% said they had been involved in at least one crash.
  • 36% said they drive 20 or more mph faster than other vehicles at least some of the time.

“Collisions were more frequent among drivers who reported driving at night and driving pickup trucks,” NHTSA stated. “Frequently driving 20 or more miles per hour faster than other vehicles, using cellphones while driving, or consuming alcohol were also associated with crash involvement.”

Other NHTSA news:




Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.