Teen Traffic Safety Behaviors and Attitudes from the 2022-2023 School Year

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Project Overview:

Youth continue to be overrepresented in car crashes throughout the United States. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes continue to be one of the leading causes of injury & death for young people under the age of 25 in the United States. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute Youth Transportation Safety Program (YTS) seeks to understand young road user behavior on an annual basis through the delivery of a behavior survey and teen-led observation activities.

Key Takeaways:

  • While attitudes around unsafe teen driver behavior are positive, self-reported behavior tells a different story.
  • Campuses conducting pre- and post-observation activities are experiencing positive changes in behavior, with the added benefit that students are gaining valuable leadership, data gathering and planning skills.
  • The majority of Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) teens recognize 3 or more of the top risks.

Our Approach:

Annually, YTS disseminates the Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) Annual Survey which anonymously collects student behavior, knowledge, and attitudes on top teen driver risk factors – distractions, impairments, speeding, seat belt use, and nighttime driving. In addition to understanding teen driving behaviors, YTS collects data on pedestrian safety and rail safety. The IRB-approved, annual survey is disseminated through the TDS peer-to-peer program on junior high and high school campuses across the nation and schools are incentivized by cash to complete the survey.

The goal of the survey is to assist YTS with program evaluation and provide student teams with important information on peers’ knowledge and behaviors specific to their campus so they may prioritize education and outreach topics. The other annual data collection approach, conducted under TDS is observations of seat belt use, distracted walking, and distracted driving behavior. This data is collected by youth on their campuses through the Zero Hero activity, where the goal is to drive down unsafe behavior through a controlled experiment that starts with pre-observations, 3 weeks or more of education, and post-observations to see if students’ behavior improves.


During the 2022-2023 school year, the Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) school seat belt observations resulted in both a 9 percent and 17 percent increase in driver and passenger seat belt use and a 34 percent decline in phone use while driving and walking.  

Results from the survey involving 16,672 teens nationally indicated that:

  • 58 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to talk on the phone while driving.  
  • 71 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to drive 10+ miles over the posted speed limit.
  • 88 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to drive without a seat belt. 

90 percent or more of respondents found it unacceptable to drive after using marijuana or drinking too much, drive when excessively fatigued, or to text or update social media while driving.

While many teens’ attitudes are showing positive results, self-reported behavior tells us something different. For example, the data showed 80 percent of respondents report never using social media while driving, yet 93 percent of teens say it’s unacceptable to text or update social media while driving.

Findings like this and more are provided to the schools and state sponsors of the Teens in the Driver Seat program.


Teens in the Driver Seat 2022-2023 Report Card

For more information on this project, please contact:

Lisa Minjares-Kyle
Program Manager
Youth Transportation Safety Program
[email protected]

Project Title: Teen Traffic Safety Behaviors and Attitudes from the 2022-2023 School Year
Project Start and End Dates: Ongoing
Author List: Youth Transportation Safety Program Team