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As night falls, it’s harder to see and to be seen. Even familiar surroundings look different seen under street lights and lit up by headlights. It’s no wonder crash rates are higher at night for everyone—including experienced drivers.
However, night driving substantially increases risk for teens. It is an incredibly dangerous time for them to drive. Mile for mile, 16 and 17 year old drivers are about three times as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash at night than during the day—and they don’t have to be out super late.
Research shows that 19% of fatal crashes involving a teen driver between the ages of 15 and 17 occur between 6 – 9 pm. This is the age when many teens receive their permit, progress through GDL and start their first year of licensed driving. When looking at all teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, almost 18% of crashes occur between 9 pm – midnight.†
This six-hour stretch is very dangerous for young drivers; it’s a time when many teens are coming home from school events, activities and work. Keep in mind that fatigue can start to set in as well.
That doesn’t mean that teens shouldn’t experience night driving at all; they need to develop this skill through practice. The best approach is to give your teen plenty of opportunities to learn how to drive at night—with you (or an adult supervisor) in the car. If this isn’t possible, then only very gradually should you extend the hours they are allowed to keep the car out as they gain experience over the course of their first year.
Remember that many states have laws which set limits on what times a teen can be on the road alone. Check out this guide for your state’s laws.
†National Safety Council analysis of 2016 FARS data.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.