Challenging odds for young drivers: One in six could get into a crash and have a 25 per cent risk of injury

Photo: ICBC

EVERY month, at least two youth die in car crashes in B.C. and 20 youth are injured daily. Distracted driving is the main contributing factor for teen drivers in crashes.

In an age where digital communication is the standard and instant responses are expected, the use of mobile devices while driving is a growing problem among all drivers, including teens.

In recognition of National Teen Driver Safety Week in Canada (October 15 to 21), ICBC is highlighting what teens, their family and their friends can do to help encourage smarter choices behind the wheel.

What is distracted driving?

While it rightly gets the most attention, distracted driving is more than just texting while driving; it’s any kind of activity that takes a driver’s focus away from the road. Eating, talking to a friend, changing a playlist, watching a video, checking your newsfeed and putting on makeup while driving are all examples of distracted driving.

Tips for teens

  • Use tech wisely: Use the ‘Do Not Disturb while driving’ feature on your iPhone or install a distracted driving app to help you resist temptation – your phone can send auto-replies to explain why you’re not responding.

  • Remember the rules: If you’re in the graduated licensing program, it’s illegal to use electronic devices while driving, even hands-free. Your first offence alone will cost you $543.

  • Keep music low enough to hear everything else: Sounds from the road can affect the decisions you make as a driver. Turn down the volume, and remove earbuds so that you’re able to hear the siren of an ambulance or the screech of a car.

Tips for parents

  • Set the standard: Even though it might seem like they’re not paying any attention to you these days, they certainly are. Teens are greatly influenced by your attitude toward texting while driving and the habits that you employ when you’re behind the wheel.

  • Put away all phones: When taking your teen out to practice driving, insist that all phones be placed in the glovebox before starting the vehicle. Be sure to place yours in the glovebox as well to ensure you’re both focused on the road ahead.

Tips for friends

  • Chill in the car: Let your friend focus on driving by being a good passenger. Save the wild dance moves, punching your buddy in the backseat, or getting in a really heated conversation for when you arrive at your destination.

  • Speak up: If your friend is texting while driving, say something. They’re not only being careless, but also placing both of your lives at risk. Offer to manage their texts while driving.

Other factors

Thankfully, youth injuries and deaths from vehicle crashes are declining, in part due to the success of ICBC’s graduated licensing program. But crashes still remain the leading cause of preventable death for young adults in B.C. Other factors such as driver inexperience, carelessness, late-night driving, overestimation of ability, thrill-seeking and risk-taking also play a role in the high rate of youth crashes.

For more tips on how to keep kids safe on the road, or to learn more about the graduated licensing program, visit

For more information about Teen Driver Safety Week, visit Parachute Canada

Additional statistics:

  • One in six young drivers could get in a crash. There were 230,000 active licences and 35,000 crashes involving youth in 2015. Of those involved in a crash, 25 per cent are at risk of injury or death, with 8,200 injuries and 28 reported fatalities of that year.

  • Young drivers represent 7 per cent of B.C.’s driving population. In 2015, there were 230,000 active driver licences for drivers aged 16 to 21. The total population of all active licences was 3,360,000.

  • Over 11 per cent of all crashes that occurred in 2015 involved a young person, aged 16 to 21.

  • Number of youth killed or injured in crashes from 2011 – 2015:

    • All of B.C.: 148 fatalities, 36,600 injuries

      • Lower Mainland: 57 fatalities, 24,700 injuries

      • Vancouver Island region: 16 fatalities, 4,680 injuries

      • Southern Interior region: 43 fatalities, 5,200 injuries

      • North Central region: 32 fatalities, 1,940 injuries

  • Distracted driving is the top contributing factor (34 percent, 4,900 crashes) followed by speed (17 percent, 2,500 crashes) and impaired driving (7 per cent, 940 crashes) in casualty crashes involving youth.

Note: ICBC data is used for injury counts from 2011 to 2015. Police data is used for fatalities and casualty crashes from 2011 to 2015. Youth is defined as aged 16 to 21. A casualty crash is a crash which results in injury or death.