Why do teenage drivers crash with such frequency?

Every day, as you drive to work, you pass the local high school. Without fail, you have more run-ins with dangerous drivers when you're near that school than you do for the rest of your commute.

A driver on a cellphone swerves into your lane. Another driver speeds and passes you in a no-passing zone. A third driver nearly runs you off the road, and you see him or her turning around to talk to a car packed with other young people.

It's clear to you that teenage drivers pose a high risk, and the statistics back it up. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 face higher crash risks than any other age group. The odds that these drivers will get involved in deadly accidents are three times higher than drivers who are 20 years old and older.

That's an incredible difference, especially with such a stark change just a year after being a teen. What causes teens to crash so often?

1. Inexperience

The less experience drivers have, the more they crash. Those who are 16 and 17 years old encounter fatal accidents twice as often per mile driven as those who are 18 and 19. A driver may take classes and pass tests to get a license, but his or her crash risks are still enormous at age 16, compared to what that driver will face for the rest of his or her life.

2. Cellphones

Cellphones pose a huge risk because they're incredibly distracting. Texting is perhaps the worst offense, but studies have found that even hands-free systems that allow people to talk without holding the phone make accidents more likely. Just looking at the phone while stopped at a red light increases distraction and danger. The only way to stay safe is to turn the phone off in the car, but young people might fail to do so.

3. Friends

Friends also increase accident odds when they ride along with teens. This is very common with young teens, when one person in a peer group may be able to drive before the others. Carpooling is the only way to get around. When you put an inexperienced driver in a car full of loud friends and louder music, it's hard for that driver to concentrate on the road.

4. Speed

Young people speed far more often than older drivers. One chart showed speed-related incidents for 16- to19-year-old drivers at about 37 percent for men and 24 percent for women, while the percentages by age 65 fell to 6 percent for women and 9 percent for men.

That commute is dangerous. If a teen driver hits you, make sure you understand all of the options you have.

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