Study: Teens highly at risk for car accidents during night driving

New research, which shows that a disproportionate number of teen car crashes occur at night, supports greater restriction of night driving among teens.

Statistics regarding teenage drivers and car accidents are enough to alarm any parent in Marietta. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers between ages 16 and 19 have a much greater crash risk than drivers of all other ages. Next to older drivers, they are almost three times likelier to experience fatal accidents. Furthermore, although they represent just 14 percent of all drivers, teens incur 28 to 30 percent of all costs related to car accident injuries.

This alarming pattern is likely due to a complex mix of variables. However, night driving may be one factor that contributes significantly to the high risk of serious or catastrophic car accidents that teenagers face, according to new research.

A deadly driving time

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study compared the times that teenagers drive with the times that they experience accidents. The researchers found that a disproportionate number of these accidents occur during nighttime driving hours. Troublingly, about a third of fatal crashes involving teens happen after dark, even though the majority of the driving that teenagers do takes place during the day.

Several factors may make night driving especially dangerous for younger and inexperienced drivers. The National Safety Council points to the following safety hazards:

  • Fatigue, which can negatively affect a person's alertness and response times
  • Reduced visibility, which gives drivers less time to respond to approaching hazards
  • Changes in vision that adversely impact a person's peripheral vision and perception of depth

The behavior of other motorists can also make nighttime driving more dangerous. The NSC notes that drivers are more likely to be fatigued after dark. Additionally, a greater number of intoxicated drivers are typically out at night than during the day.

Suggested legal changes

These findings suggest that laws limiting teens from driving at night may significantly help reduce crashes among drivers in this age group. Already, the majority of states enforce some type of night driving restriction. Here in Georgia, it is illegal for teenagers to drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Still, broader restrictions may be necessary.

Tellingly, the recent CDC study found that over half of the fatal car crashes that teens were involved in at night occurred before midnight, during driving hours that are legal in Georgia and 22 other states. This indicates that an earlier driving curfew may be appropriate. According to National Public Radio, based on other research, one non-profit highway safety group has recommended that teens not be permitted to drive unsupervised after 8 p.m.

Protecting teen drivers

Given these findings and current laws on nighttime driving, parents in Georgia may benefit from taking a cautious approach to allowing their teens to drive during this time. Parents may want to consider limiting the hours that their teens are allowed to drive after dark. Additionally, parents should be careful to educate their teenagers about the unusual hazards of night driving.

Unfortunately, these measures may not fully mitigate the risk of accidents, especially in cases when other drivers are impaired, fatigued or otherwise acting negligently. The victims of these accidents or their family members may benefit from consulting with an attorney about their legal options for pursuing compensation.