October 17, 2022

DES MOINES, Iowa - Parenting is not easy task, and parenting teenagers comes with its own unique set of challenges. During National Teen Driver Safety Week, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB) is teaming up with law enforcement across the state to help empower parents to discuss the importance of safe driving habits with their young drivers. It is never too early or too often for parents to have conversations with their teens about the important rules they need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel. Any time is a good time to have these conversations.  

“Parents play a critical role in teen driver safety.  Both in communication and setting a good example of safe driving habits,” said GTSB Director Brett Tjepkes.  “New teen drivers are still gaining experience behind the wheel, which increases the changes of dangerous situations for the teen and other roadway users around the,” he said.  “That is why it is so important for parents to be a good example and also have those tough conversations.”  

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States - ahead of all other types of injury, disease, or violence. In 2020, there were 2,276 people killed in crashes involving a teen driver (15 to 18 years old), of which 748 deaths were the teen driver.  

•    Alcohol and Drugs: All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol.  However, nationally in 2020, 19% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system.  But alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely.  Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings.  Remind teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.  

•    Seat Belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. Yet too many teens aren’t buckling up.  In 2020, more than half (52%) of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died were unbuckled.  Even more troubling, when the teen driver involved in the fatal crash was unbuckled, nine out of ten of the passengers who died were also unbuckled. 

•    Distracted Driving: Distractions while driving are more than just risky—they can be deadly. In 2020, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, 7% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.  The use of mobile devices while driving is a big problem, but there are other causes of teen distracted driving which pose dangers as well.  They includes adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating or drinking, or distractions from other passengers in the vehicle.    

•    Speeding: In 2020, almost one-third (31%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, and males were more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than females.

•    Passengers: Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to disastrous results.  Research shows the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.

•    Drowsy Driving: Teens are busier than ever: studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends are among the long list of things they do to fill their time. However, with all of these activities, teens tend to compromise something very important—sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

As a parent, please remember, your teen is in the driver’s seat but you’re in control and even if you think your teen is not listening, they are.  Be empowered.  Driving – for everyone, teens and adults alike, is a privilege, not a right.  If your teen is having difficulty following the rules, it may be time to take the keys away and review the rules.  Safe teen drivers can mean the difference between life and death – for themselves, their passengers, and all other road users.  The Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau encourage you to talk to your teen drivers about safe driving practices. Losing even one is one too many, don’t you think? 


The Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the largest law enforcement agency in the state. It includes six divisions and several bureaus, all working together with local, state and federal government agencies and the private sector, to keep Iowa a safe place by following our core values: leadership, integrity, professionalism, courtesy, service and protection. Divisions within the Iowa DPS: Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Iowa State Patrol, Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, Iowa Division of Intelligence and Fusion Center, and Administrative Services Division. The Department of Public Safety is led by the Commissioner who is appointed by the Governor.

Iowa Department of Public Safety
215 E 7th St
Des Moines IA 50319