Teen Driving Safety

National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 20-26, 2013

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens age 15-19 in Utah. Teenage drivers represented 8% of the licensed drivers in Utah in 2010, yet they were in nearly one-fourth (21%) of all crashes. Teens were 1.7 times more likely to be in a crash than drivers of other ages (2010 Crash Summary Report).

2012 teen memoriam

In 2012, 21 teens lost their lives on Utah's roads. Read their stories...

Utah Highway Safety Office data show an increase in the number of teens killed in auto-pedestrian crashes―from one in 2010 to five in 2011. In addition, eight (35%) of the teens killed in 2011 were drivers, nine (39%) were passengers, and one (4%) was a driver of an ATV. Nearly 75% of the victims were males.

Graduated Driver License

In 1998, the Utah Legislature passed a law that requires teens to put more time behind the wheel before becoming fully licensed. Graduated driver licensing allows new drivers to learn driving skills over time and gain the experience needed to become safe drivers. Teens receive a "limited drivers license" and have certain driving restrictions such as no night-time driving, limitations on who can be in the vehicle with them, and the amount of supervised driving time they must have before getting a full license. (List of all 50 states' GDL laws)

Read more about Utah's GDL law

Since Utah's GDL law was passed in 1999, there has been a 61% decrease in the number of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes!

National studies show:

Seat Belt Use

Utah law requires all children under the age of 19 to be properly restrained in a motor vehicle. However, only 25% of the teens killed in 2011 were wearing a seat belt. In comparison, 90% of the 18,380 teens who were in a crash in 2011 and survived were wearing a seat belt (Utah Highway Safety Office).

Teens have the lowest seatbelt use of any age group in Utah. Only 31.6% of occupants killed in teenage driven vehicles in 2010 were wearing a seat belt. In 2010, teen drivers and their passengers who were not wearing a seatbelt were 50 times more likely to be killed in a crash than those who were wearing a seatbelt (2010 Utah Crash Summary Report).


The more occupants in the car the more likely a crash involved injury or death. Crashes where the teenage driven vehicle contained four or more passengers were 8.2 times more likely to be fatal than crashes involving teenage driven vehicles with fewer occupants.

Factors in Fatal Crashes

Teen drivers were three times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages. In 2011, the top five factors in a fatal crash where a teenager was driving were:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Failing to stay in the proper lane
  • Overcorrecting
  • Driving distracted (such as distracted by passengers, cell phones, and external distractions)

For Parents

Teaching a teen to drive can be intimidating. However, research has shown that involved parents who set rules and monitor their teen's drivign behavior in a supportive way can cut their teen's crash risk in half. According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, teens whose parents are invovled in their driving and training are:

  • Twice as likely to wear seat belts.
  • 70% less likely to drink and drive.
  • Half as likely to speed.
  • 30% less likely to talk on a cell phone while driving.

A guide called "Be Smart. Be Safe. A Parent's Guide to Smart Teen Driving" helps parents understand their role in teaching their child to drive. The guide details the Utah GDL laws in easy-to-read tables and penalities for driving infractions. The guide provides tips on how parents can help their teens avoid the five driving behaviors killing people on Utah's roads, as well as a Parent Teen Driving Agreement. This agreement details the expectations and rules for both the parent and teen driver and lists consequences for breaking driving rules. The guide and driving agreement were developed the Utah Department of Health, Zero Fatalities program, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Department of Public Safety, and Utah Driver License Divsion.

The parent guide is also being used with Parent Night Programs. These 1 to 1-1/2 hour classes are provided to parents with a child in a driver education program through Utah's public high schools. Trained staff from the Zero Fatalities program and local health departments teach the classes throughout the state. Driver education teachers may require students and their parents to attend the Parent Night Program as part of their classwork.

If you are interested in finding a Parent Night Program near you, contact Stacy Johnson with the Zero Fatalities Program (801-487-4800 or sjohnson@ppbh.com) or contact your local health department injury prevention staff.

Utah Teen Driving Task Force

New! Utah Teen Driving Task Force Strategic Plan, 2013-2018

In 2006, traffic safety professionals from across Utah attended a national roundtable on teen driving sponsored the Safe States Alliance. The result was the creation of the Utah Teen Driving Task in 2007, chaired by the Utah Department of Health and Utah Department of Public Safety. Members of the Task Force include Utah’s local health departments, AAA, Utah State Office of Education, Highway Patrol, Primary Children’s Medical Center, Utah Division of Drivers Licensing, Utah Safety Council, Zero Fatalities Program, and the Utah State Legislature.

The objectives of the Task Force are to:

  • Reduce the rate of motor vehicle crash deaths in Utah among teens ages 13-19.
  • Bring together stakeholders with an interest in teen driving to ensure activities are coordinated throughout the state.
  • Create an effective marketing campaign designed to reduce risky behaviors among teen drivers and passengers.
  • Develop, support, and/or advocate for effective teen driving policies (such as Graduated Driver Licensing programs, driver education curriculum, local school policies, etc.)
  • Support continued innovation in driver education materials.

Accomplishments of the Task Force include:

  • Creation of a teen component to the Zero Fatalites Program, called Don't Drive Stupid. The Zero Fatalities Program is funded by the Utah Department of Transportation.
  • Rewrite of the Utah driver education curriculum to include a mandatory parent component.
  • Distributing nearly 5,000 printed memorial books (English and Spanish) to driver education instructors, families, health and traffic safety leadership, businesses, media, and local health departments over the past five years. Nearly 60,000 memorial books downloaded from the Utah Department of Health, Zero Fatalities, and Don’t Drive Stupid websites since October 2008.
  • Nearly 120,000 teens educated from 2007-2012.
  • More than 1,200 teen driving events/presentations held from 2007-2012.
  • Approximately 1,000 parents of new drivers have attended a Parent Night program.
  • Funding nine local health departments to conduct teen driving activities. The results of which included 21 media activities, 162 teen driving events/presentations, and 42,398 teens educated between October 2010 and September 2011 alone. 
  • Creation of DVDs, YouTube videos, posters, and PSAs about teen driving. Many of these are created through a yearly statewide video and poster contest in high schools.

The efforts of the Task Force are making a difference. In 2006, one year before the Task Force was created, 44 teens ages 13-19 were killed on Utah’s roads. In 2010, the number of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes had dropped by half, to 22. Injuries from motor vehicle crashes among teens also decreased. More than 1,600 fewer teens ages 15-19 were hospitalized or treated in an emergency department from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash.

The extraordinary commitment, dedication, innumerable hours of paid and voluntary staff time, and monetary resources of the Utah Teen Driving Task Force has led to a 42% drop in the rate of teen motor vehicle deaths in Utah since 2007, when the Task Force was created.

Telling Your Story

If you or someone you know has lost a teen in a motor vehicle crash, we want to hear your story. Each year we publish a Teen Memorial Book which tell the stories of teens killed on Utah's roads the previous year, as told by their grieving families. The books are given to driver education instructors throughout the state. The books have been evaluated in several high schools across the state, and analysis of the data showed that students were more likely to adhere to GDL laws, commit to driving safely, and understand the risks associated with driving after reading them. In addition, 95% of students who had read the book felt other teens learning to drive should read these stories.

There has been a 30% decrease in the rate of teen motor vehicle deaths in Utah since the publication of the first teen memorial book in 2008.

Click here to learn how you can share your story.