Night driving statistics show that teens are far more likely to be in serious driving accidents at night. Driving at night can be very different from driving during the day. At night besides reduced visibility, there is less time to see and react to road signs, upcoming curves, a car swerving into the driver’s lane, a kid crossing the street, or other things. That’s why slowing down and being more cautious are crucial.
Night driving increases crash risk for all drivers, but that risk is even higher for young inexperienced drivers. Other road users are more likely to be driving impaired or driving drowsy after dark, according to nighttime driving statistics.
Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB) systems are an emerging technology and provide automatic braking when pedestrians are in front of a vehicle and the driver has not acted to avoid a crash. Although PAEB systems have been found to reduce the rate of pedestrian crashes with injury by 30% during daylight, they do not appear to reduce the rate of crashes in darkened conditions, according to a 2022 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study.
For teen drivers, state Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) provisions have worked effectively to reduce fatal crashes and can be used as a guide by families to set house rules that will keep new drivers safe. Besides sharing night driving crash statistics, here are some tips to help teens manage night driving risks:
Get plenty of practice driving at night with an adult supervisor, before driving at night solo. Optimal GDL policy includes a requirement to complete 10 or more hours of supervised driving at night with a learner permit before getting licensed. This provides time for parents to coach their teens on how to adjust their driving for nighttime conditions and how to respond to the unique hazards of driving at night, such as an oncoming vehicle’s high beams.
Once licensed, initially limit nighttime driving to the hours before 9 p.m. Optimal GDL provisions limit newly licensed drivers from driving after 9 or 10 p.m. This is because the majority of fatal nighttime crashes for teens occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. This GDL restriction usually times out after about 6 to 12 months of independent driving when, hopefully, teen drivers have had sufficient time to practice driving at night in lower risk conditions.
Plan nighttime trips and routes in advance. Teens and their parents should consider the risk of the newly licensed driver operating a vehicle while drowsy late at night. A typical scenario could be driving home after a school event, such as a Friday night ballgame. After a full day of school and the excitement of an event, inexperienced drivers may have difficulty focusing on the extra challenge of driving at night. Before that long day begins, consider an alternative plan for getting home safely or plan a safe route on well-lit roads.
Driving at night increases the risk of fatal crashes for all drivers, especially young drivers; 49 states and the District of Columbia include a night driving restriction in their GDL system.
More Night Driving Statistics
- In 2021, 42% of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths occurred between 9 pm and 6 am.
- Nighttime crash (6 pm to 5:59 am) fatalities increased by 12% from 2019 to 2020.
- The fatal crash rate at night among teen drivers (ages 16–19) is about 3 times as high as that of adult drivers per mile driven.
- Although most pediatricians counsel teens on driving and discuss seat belts and alcohol use, other important teen driver crash risks are not discussed, including nighttime driving and teen passengers.