Teenage Rampage

Parents underestimate risk to teenagers of driving

74% of accidental teenage deaths happen on the road

6 October 2010

Parents underestimate the risk to their teenagers of driving or being driven, according to an AA/Populus survey. As this year's crop of school-leavers head for college, a new job or just a night out, the AA urges parents not only to keep tabs on how their teenagers drive 'mum's car' but also set out rules if their youngsters run into trouble.

Even though 74% of accidental teenage deaths happen on the road, only one in 10 of the 18,500 AA members surveyed considered it the biggest threat to younger adults*.

Highest risks to teenagers were considered to be:

  • Drugs 31%
  • Drinking 25%
  • Gun and knife crime 25%
  • Driving 11%
  • Smoking 4%
  • Sex 1%
  • Disease less than 1%
  • Other 2%

Driver or passenger?

Teenagers are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a car crash Last year more 16-19 year olds died as passengers (94) than as drivers (79) which reinforces the point that teenagers and their parents need to vet the drivers and the cars that they intend to travel in.

This is the first time that passenger deaths have overtaken driver deaths since 2004 and reflects a larger drop in driver deaths perhaps because the driving test is harder and more teenagers go to university before learning to drive.

Speed related collisions

Results from a Department for Transport study**, released in mid-September, set out characteristics in speed-related collisions. These found:

  • Male drivers aged under 30, particularly those under 21, are more likely to be involved in a speeding-related collision than in one where speed wasn't a factor
  • Drivers of hatchbacks and sports cars are over-represented in speed-related collisions
  • Drivers of vehicles that are 10 or more years old and vehicles with two or more occupants are disproportionally involved in speed-related crashes, again pointing the finger at the younger driver

Advice to parents of teenage drivers

AA road safety specialists advise parents who lend the car to teenage sons and daughters or contribute to the cost of them having one, to keep an eye on:

  • How, when and where the car is being driven
  • Who their teenagers are driving with
  • Signs of bad driving, such as damaged tyres, scratched paintwork
  • How driving is discussed among friends

It's also important for parents to make sure that sons or daughters know that it's OK to turn to them for help if the unexpected happens – drinking too much to drive or finding that a friend has overdone it. This is far preferable to the teenager taking a risk with life or licence.

Potential danger

Indicators that may point to potentially dangerous circumstances include:

  • a car over-loaded with passengers
  • cars being involved in illegal street racing
  • someone driving beyond the limit of their experience – a more powerful car, longer distance, type of road or time of day that the driver isn't used to
  • a driver whose personality or reputation indicates a worse than comfortable risk, although many other teenagers feel under pressure to show off by taking risks when driving.


Edmund King, AA President, said: "Most parents under-estimate the risks their teenagers may be taking as drivers or indeed car passengers. Teenagers are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a car crash than in a knife fight or drug overdose. Parents need to be aware of the risks taken by teenage drivers and take appropriate action to minimise those risks.

"Every weekend we read newspaper reports of 'car carnage' or 'teenage rampage'. The AA Charitable Trust is helping by offering free 'Drive Smart' safe/eco-driving courses to new drivers at risk."

Join the discussion in the AA zone


* AA/Populus panel survey of 18,500 AA members between 23 May and 2 June 2008

** The Characteristics of Speed-related Collisions, Department for Transport, September 2010


5 October 2010