Crash Course: Are Student-Driver Incidents on the Rise?

Car with student driver sticker parked in Patriots student parking lot.
Car with student driver sticker parked in Patriot’s student parking lot.
Savannah Farrier

Gen Z is society’s newest generation of drivers, and critics might advise you to clear the roads. Are these “terrible driver” accusations baseless, or do new-age student drivers pose legitimate concerns to the safety of other drivers and pedestrians? 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the fatal crash rate per miles driven is three times higher for ages 16-19 in comparison to that of drivers 20-years-old and over. No doubt a credit to their inexperience, student drivers and teens are at higher risk in terms of potentially fatal crashes. But it begs the question, what is the reason for their lack of skills on the road?  

Virginia Student Driver Statistics 

It varies from state to state, but in Virginia, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires mandatory completion of a driver’s education course in school; after which, you receive a card (D.E.C card) that signifies your certification in Driver’s Ed and allows you to get your permit. You are then eligible to obtain your learner’s permit at the age of 15 and six months should you pass a two-part general knowledge and signs test administered by the DMV. You must hold your permit for 9 months and receive your license at 16 and three months if you pass a road skills test. This test can be taken through any organization or establishment that is DMV certified. 

Despite these preparations to produce safe drivers, “3,489 teen drivers were injured in traffic accidents in Virginia in 2021. That reflects an 8.35% increase from the 3,220 teen drivers reported injured in the 2020 report,” according to Kendall Law Firm, U.S. News’ 2023 “Best Law Firm” winners. Furthermore, these numbers don’t account for the teen drivers who were killed in fatal accidents.  

Just recently, on Dec. 4, 2023, a Prince William County student was arrested for a hit-and-run after colliding with a fellow Patriot High School schoolmate and fleeing the scene. ABC7 reports that the victim faced non-life-threatening injuries, but the situation left some students concerned. In a survey, 75% of PWC students claimed they “did not feel safe” in the student parking lots.  

Security at Patriot 

Although, at Patriot High School the administration and security team are doing what they can to ensure the safety of the students within the parking lot. According to head security officer Mr. Murphy, Patriot’s security team only deals with about 10-12 student driver car crashes in a school year.  

Given the large number of student drivers Patriot has, this is a relatively low number. This is due to all the precautions taken by the security team. Murphy says, “We use traffic cones in patterns. A lot of thought has gone into those patterns, one of the things we do is we take great pains separate the student drivers from all other traffic; to where you’re not having to compete with buses, and you’re not having to compete with parents. It’s just students coming in.” 

The organization of the student parking lots is something that the security team takes seriously. However, it’ll take more than just organization to prevent accidents. When asked to give one piece of advice to student drivers to improve safety, Murphy responded, “Slow down, so they can pay attention more. Most of the accidents we have around here are due to driver inattention.” 

This is where taking the proper precautions with learning courses comes in handy.  

The Importance in Taking Driver Preparation Courses  

Many students are eager to jump straight on the road. So much so that they’re willing to take shortcuts when it comes to getting their license. Where 75% of PWCS students claimed they didn’t feel safe in the parking lot, 50% of those same students claim to have gotten their license in a four-day course or less. The most appropriate time for a driving course is seven days. While being able to drive is fun and convenient, there is importance in going through the proper practice and training. 


The National Safety Counsel states, “Inexperience is the biggest danger for new drivers so additional practice hours will only help.” Getting comfortable on the road with an adult in the car will only further prepare you for driving on your own, so use the nine plus months of having a permit to your advantage.  

The point is to develop not only the skill, but the ability to make fast and efficient judgments or decisions when driving. That comes with time and repetition, not the little plastic card.  

Tips To Be Better Drivers 

Here are some tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for better teen-driver safety: 

  • Never drive while under the influence 
  • Seat belts are a must; it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting 
  • Hands on the wheel and eyes on the road; driving should be your only focus 
  • Obey the speed limit 
  • Limit the number of passengers in the car 

The overall goal is to keep as many people safe on the roads as possible. That starts with making sure that the newer generations of drivers have a solid foundation of safe driving skills and knowledge.  

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