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NY: Teen driving deaths climbed in U.S. during first year of pandemic, study says

NY: Teen driving deaths climbed in U.S. during first year of pandemic, study says

By Ann Marie Barron
September 21, 2022

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. –The number of teen drivers and passengers killed in auto accidents in the United States increased by nearly 20% during the first year of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a recent study.

For years, traffic crashes have been the number one killer of teens in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with newly licensed teens involved in the most crashes. Thousand more lose their lives in car crashes, and hundreds of thousands are treated in emergency departments for injuries related to motor vehicle crashes.

In fact, the fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16- to 19-year-olds is nearly three times the rate for drivers ages 20 and over, and risk is highest at ages 16 to 17, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

Inexperience and distracted driving were found to be the most significant contributors to these numbers in recent years, with nearly 40% of teens in 2019 telling the CDC that they had sent a text or email at least once during the previous month while driving.

In 2020, 2,738 teenagers (ages 13-19) died in the United States from crash injuries, and hundreds of thousands were injured, according to The U.S. Teen Road Fatalities Report, released by Zutobi, an online student driving program. That number is an increase of 19.5% compared to the previous year, research shows.

Kentucky led the states with 71.45 of 100,000 licensed teens dying in vehicle crashes in 2020, followed by North Carolina, with 45.34, and Arkansas, with 45.12 deaths per 100,000 teen drivers.

New York had one of the lowest number of deaths per 100,000 teen drivers, with 11.65. The total number of teenage driving deaths in New York in 2020 was 33, the report said. That’s 11.65 deaths per 100,000 teenage drivers.

In neighboring New Jersey, that number was 18, or 9.62 deaths per 100,000 teen drivers.


1. Consumption of alcohol: 523 teen drivers were killed in DUI crashes in 2020. And though drinking and driving is illegal in all 50 states, in 2020, 790 drivers aged 15 to 20 who were involved in a fatal crash tested positive for alcohol, and 24% had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit for adults (0.08 or higher), according to the National Safety Council.

2. Speeding: A recent study from the Governors Highway Safety Association found that from 2015 to 2019, teen drivers and passengers had a greater proportion of speeding-related fatalities (43%) than all other age groups (30%), with 4,930 teen drivers and passengers dying in speeding-related crashes.

3. Driver error. A study by the National Safety Council found that young drivers, who were speeding in nearly 80% of single-vehicle crashes, did not yield to another vehicle in more than 40% of angle crashes.

3. Distracted driving: Speaking on a mobile phone while driving doubles the crash risk, while texting increases the crash risk by up to six times, according to the Zutobi report.

4. Darkness: Previous reports have found that teens are more likely to speed than older drivers and more than 50% of the fatal accidents occur in the dark.


In 2020, the majority of teen car crashes occurred during the summer, specifically in June, July and August, according to the IIHS.

And, an estimated 50% of all fatal car accidents among teenagers in 2020 happened on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Most crashes were reported between 9 p.m. and midnight, IIHS reported.