What Age Group Causes the Most Car Accidents?

February 26, 2024 | Article by Matt Clark | Tips & Information

What Age Group Causes the Most Car Accidents?

For most residents of the United States, traveling by car is an inescapable part of everyday life. On the roads, we may notice young drivers weaving recklessly in and out of traffic or elderly drivers creeping hesitantly down the road.

But what age group has the most car accidents?

Young Drivers Have the Most Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers aged 16–24 were involved in 22.8% of all accidents in 2021.

Drivers aged 25–34 were involved in almost as many accidents—22.6%—and no other age groups were involved in nearly as many crashes.

However, the 16–24 group makes up only 11.2% of licensed drivers, while the 25–34 group comprises 17.5%. Fewer drivers involved in more accidents means that drivers aged 16–24 are a higher-risk age group.

Drivers Involved in Crashes in 2021 By Age Group and Crash Type (NHTSA Data)
Age GroupCrash TypeAll CrashesPercent of All CrashesPercent of Licensed DriversAccident Involvement Rate*
FatalInjuryProperty Damage Only
*Accident involvement rate compares the percent of all crashes to the percent of licensed drivers: % crashes ÷ % drivers. The higher the accident involvement rate, the more likely a driver in that age group is to be involved in a crash.

The accident involvement rate in the chart above is an indicator of how likely it is for someone in a particular age group to be involved in a car accident. The higher the accident involvement rate, the more likely it is that a driver in that age group will be involved in a crash.

Drivers aged 16–20 are the most likely to be involved in a car crash, while drivers aged 65 and up are the least likely.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that older drivers (aged 65+) are the safest drivers, because it doesn’t account for the number of miles traveled and other age-related factors.

High-Risk Groups: Teenagers and Older Adults

Teenagers are the highest-risk group for all types of car crashes—fatal, injury-causing, and property damage only. In addition, teens and older adults (65+) both have higher crash death rates than other age groups. But these two groups are high-risk for very different reasons.

Teen Drivers

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), car accidents are the number one cause of death for U.S. teens. So, although turning 16 and getting a driver’s license is an important milestone for many American youths, it’s also a time of significant risk.

Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes—Rate Per 100,000 Licensed Drivers (NHTSA, 2021)
Age GroupMaleFemaleTotal

As the chart above shows, the fatal crash rate is highest for males aged 15–20, but females within the same age group also have a much higher crash rate than older females.

The CDC highlights a number of additional risk factors for young drivers, including:

  • Inexperience: It makes sense—more experienced drivers are more competent and make better decisions behind the wheel. The stats bear this out—16-year-old drivers crash 1.5 times as often as 18–19-year-olds.
  • Not using seat belts: It’s true that seat belts save lives, but teens are less likely to wear them. The CDC reports that 56% of teens killed in car accidents in 2020 were not wearing a seat belt.
  • Speeding: In 2020’s fatal crashes involving drivers aged 15–20, one in three males and nearly one in five females exceeded the speed limit.
  • Driving with passengers: Distracted driving is a problem for drivers of all ages, but for inexperienced young drivers, the crash rate creeps higher with each additional person in the car. There are enough distractions to avoid without passengers—one 2019 survey found that nearly 40% of high school students had texted while driving within the last month.
  • Driving at night: When driving at night, teen drivers are three times as likely to be in a fatal crash as drivers aged 30–59.
  • Driving drunk: Although drivers from 15–20 years old are under the legal drinking age, nearly one of every three drivers from this age group who died in a car accident in 2020 had alcohol in their system.

If you’re a parent to a young driver, be sure to read our blog on how to prevent teen car accidents.

Older Adults

As the baby boomers age, drivers 65 and up are a rapidly growing demographic. Because they’re experienced drivers, older adults don’t have the same risk factors as teens—but they do face age-related driving issues.

These issues include:

  • Changes in vision, especially at night
  • Slower reaction times
  • Impairments in physical function
  • Cognitive decline

Of course, these changes don’t apply to everyone—some older adults are still excellent drivers. However, the items listed do reflect the reality of the human aging process.

According to the CDC, the primary reason for increased crash death rates for drivers over 70 is not poor driving—it’s their greater susceptibility to being hurt when there is a car accident.

What Do Car Insurance Rates Tell Us About Driver Risk?

Car insurance companies establish rates based on the risk of having to pay various kinds of claims. The lower the risks associated with a driver, vehicle, and location, the lower the premiums the driver will pay.

  • Some factors may increase premiums. For example, if you live in an area where break-ins and auto theft are rampant, you’ll probably pay more, because there’s a greater chance your insurance company will have to reimburse you for losses from theft.
  • Other factors may decrease premiums. For example, your insurance company may offer discounts for an insured vehicle’s advanced safety features.

Insurance companies also consider driver-specific characteristics such as your age, sex, and driving record:

  • Teenage drivers pay the highest rates. A teen driver may pay 2.5 times as much as a 21-year-old and more than four times as much as a 45-year-old.
  • Drivers between the ages of 45 and 65 pay the lowest rates.
  • After drivers reach age 65, their rates start to increase again—although they’re nowhere near as high as the rates for teen drivers.
  • Because males consistently get into more accidents than females, males pay higher insurance premiums in many states. However, California insurance regulations forbid insurance companies from using gender as a factor in determining insurance rates.
  • A driver with speeding tickets or citations for not wearing a seat belt will pay higher rates.

Bakersfield Car Accident Attorneys

If you or a family member were injured in a car accident caused by another driver, you may be eligible to receive compensation to help pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The experienced car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark can help you negotiate a fair settlement or pursue your case in court.

For a free, no-obligation review of your case, contact us today.