Gen Zers are the Worst Drivers, With the Highest Accident Rates, Most DUIs & More

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With age comes experience — particularly when it comes to driving.

According to the latest LendingTree study, Gen Z drivers had the highest incident rate, the highest accident rate, the most DUIs and more, making them the worst drivers on the road.

After breaking down the findings, we’ll show how this impacts young drivers’ insurance — and what they can do to lower their rates.

  • Gen Z drivers had the highest incident rate from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, 2023. Gen Zers ages 18 to 26 had 49.07 incidents (accidents, DUIs, speeding and citations) per 1,000 drivers — nearly double that of the second-highest group, millennials (25.13). Incident rates among the remaining age groups were fairly even at 20.45 (Gen X drivers), 19.44 (baby boomer drivers) and 19.05 (silent generation drivers).
  • Gen Zers had the highest accident rate in the period analyzed. In addition to the highest incident rate, Gen Z drivers also had the highest accident rate at 30.25 per 1,000 drivers. That’s about 18 more accidents per 1,000 drivers than the generation with the lowest rate, Gen X, at 11.96.
  • The silent generation saw the lowest DUI rate by a wide margin. Silent generation drivers had 0.26 DUIs per 1,000 drivers from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, 2023 — about half the rate of the next lowest generation, baby boomers (0.53). Once again, the generation ranking highest was Gen Z at 2.17 DUIs per 1,000 drivers.
  • The rate of driving citations among Gen Zers was nearly six times higher than that of the silent generation. While Gen Zers ranked highest across all metrics analyzed, the biggest discrepancy was in citation rates. Gen Z drivers received 23.62 citations (including improper lane usage, driving without auto insurance, failing to yield and more) per 1,000 drivers in the period analyzed. That’s nearly six times higher than the 4.02 among silent generation members and more than twice the 10.24 among millennials.

When it comes to driving, Gen Zers may be better off taking advice from Carrie Underwood. In fact, Gen Zers (ages 18 to 26) had the highest incident rate by age group, with 49.07 incidents per 1,000 drivers between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2023. For our purposes, driving incidents are:

  • Accidents
  • DUIs
  • Speeding
  • Citations

Notably, the incident rate among Gen Zers was nearly double that among millennials ages 27 to 42. With 25.13 incidents per 1,000 drivers, millennials were the next highest-ranking generation.

Rob Bhatt, LendingTree auto insurance expert and a licensed insurance agent, attributes Gen Z’s higher incident rate to inexperience and risk-taking.

“Young drivers need time to gain familiarity in how to operate a vehicle and learn how to deal with the various hazards that can unexpectedly arise on a road or highway,” he says. “Younger people, in general, are also often more likely to engage in risky behavior than older individuals. Some researchers tie this to our prefrontal cortex, which isn’t fully developed until a person reaches their mid-20s.”

Driving incidents per 1,000 drivers by generation

Rank Generation Driving incidents per 1,000 drivers
1 Gen Z 49.07
2 Millennial 25.13
3 Gen X 20.45
4 Baby boomer 19.44
5 Silent generation 19.05

Source: LendingTree analysis of QuoteWizard by LendingTree insurance quote data.

Bhatt also believes distracted driving may be to blame. “Speeding and impairment have long been the top contributors to traffic accidents, but distracted driving has joined them as another leading cause of accidents,” he says. “Avoiding the temptation to check our phones while driving is difficult for drivers of any generation, but it may be especially difficult for younger drivers, because they may not have the same level of impulse control as older drivers.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39% of high school students who drove in a 30-day period in 2019 texted or emailed while driving at least once. Additionally, a higher percentage of drivers ages 15 to 20 were distracted during a fatal crash than drivers 21 and older.

Among the remaining age groups, Gen X drivers ages 43 to 58 had the next highest incident rate at 20.45. That’s followed by baby boomer drivers ages 59 to 77 (19.44) and silent generation drivers ages 78 to 95 (19.05).

Broken down by incident type, Gen Z drivers had the highest accident rate in the period analyzed, at 30.25 per 1,000 drivers. Meanwhile, Gen Xers had the lowest driving accident rate, at 11.96 per 1,000 drivers — about 18 accidents less than Gen Zers.

Note: While our overall rankings for the generations with the most driving incidents analyze accidents, DUIs, speeding and citations, our analyses of each component don’t align if you add the individual rates. That’s because our overall rankings include drivers with multiple incidents.

Because insurance rates are already typically more expensive for young drivers, an accident may be particularly problematic for those with already high rates. “The good news for Gen Z drivers is that their rates will become more affordable when they reach their 30s, provided they can maintain a good driving record and avoid having too many insurance claims,” Bhatt says.

Unfortunately, he says, you’ll pay more for car insurance if you cause an accident — usually for at least three years. Insurance companies call this a surcharge. According to a ValuePenguin analysis, at-fault accidents raise your insurance rates by an average of 49%, depending on your insurer and where you live.

Driving accidents per 1,000 drivers by generation

Rank Generation Accidents per 1,000 drivers
1 Gen Z 30.25
2 Millennial 14.22
3 Silent generation 14.03
4 Baby boomer 12.64
5 Gen X 11.96

Source: LendingTree analysis of QuoteWizard by LendingTree insurance quote data.

It’s not just your insurance that’s worth worrying about — a higher rate of accidents may also mean a higher risk of fatalities. According to early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic fatalities increased by 6% among people 15 to 24 in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period the year before, making it the age group with the highest increase. Just one other age group — 65 and older — saw fatalities increase in this period, rising 3%.

When it comes to DUI rates by generation, the oldest Americans are generally the least likely to drink and drive (and get caught). In fact, silent generation drivers had 0.26 DUIs per 1,000 drivers from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, 2023. That’s around half the rate of the next-lowest ranking generation — baby boomers — with 0.53 DUIs per 1,000 drivers.

DUIs per 1,000 drivers by generation

Rank Generation DUIs per 1,000 drivers
1 Gen Z 2.17
2 Millennial 1.59
3 Gen X 1.01
4 Baby boomer 0.53
5 Silent generation 0.26

Source: LendingTree analysis of QuoteWizard by LendingTree insurance quote data.

Gen Zers again ranked first, with 2.17 DUIs per 1,000 drivers. They’re the only group with a DUI rate above 2.00. Millennials, the next-highest ranking group, had 1.59 DUIs per 1,000 drivers.

This coincides with NHTSA findings. In 2021, 21-to-24-year-old drivers made up the highest percentage of drunken drivers, followed by 25-to-34-year-olds. Additionally, about a quarter of fatal crashes involve an underage drinking driver, according to the NHTSA.

When it comes to citations (which include improper lane usage, driving without insurance, failing to yield and more), it may not be surprising that Gen Zers again rank first. However, it’s worth noting that the discrepancy between generations is largest here.

In fact, Gen Z drivers received 23.62 citations per 1,000 drivers in the period analyzed. That’s nearly six times higher than that of the silent generation, which had the lowest citation rate at 4.02.

Citations per 1,000 drivers by generation

Rank Generation Citations per 1,000 drivers
1 Gen Z 23.62
2 Millennial 10.24
3 Gen X 7.11
4 Baby boomer 5.23
5 Silent generation 4.02

Source: LendingTree analysis of QuoteWizard by LendingTree insurance quote data.

That’s also more than twice the rate of citations among millennials, which ranked second-highest at 10.24 per 1,000 drivers.

Car insurance can be a pain point for many drivers, particularly young drivers without clean records. According to Bhatt, that’s been particularly true in recent years.

“These past few years have seen a sort of perfect storm for insurance rates,” Bhatt says. “Accident rates spiked when people started driving again after the pandemic-related shutdowns ended. At the same time, inflation caused car repair costs to spike. This left insurance companies paying considerably more to repair cars than expected. These skyrocketing expenses caused insurance companies to raise their rates.”

While rates have been rising for all generations, Bhatt says these increases are particularly hard on Gen Zers because their drivers tend to have smaller budgets than older drivers who may be further along in their careers. That said, Bhatt believes there are signs that insurance rates may be stabilizing. In the meantime, he offers the following advice for young drivers looking to reduce their insurance rates:

  • Avoid tickets and accidents. “This is easier said than done, but it’s true,” he says. “Maintaining a clean driving record helps you avoid paying even more for car insurance. And be patient. Car insurance rates go down with age since drivers in their teens and early 20s have higher crash rates than those in their late 20s and 30s.”
  • Pay your bills on time. “In most states, insurance companies also factor your credit history into your insurance rates,” Bhatt says. “A history of unpaid bills, particularly unpaid car insurance bills, can make you pay more for car insurance.”
  • Shop around. Compare quotes from at least three companies when you shop for insurance or anytime you feel you’re being overcharged.

Researchers analyzed tens of millions of QuoteWizard by LendingTree insurance quotes from Jan. 1, 2023, through Nov. 30, 2023.

To determine the best and worst drivers by generation, researchers calculated the number of driving incidents per 1,000 drivers among each age group. This main category included accidents, DUIs, speeding and citations.

We analyzed the four categories combined and individually. Our individual analyses don’t add to the driving incident total because of drivers with multiple incidents.

The categories that fell under citations included:

  • Carelessness or recklessness
  • Improper lane usage, improper passing and improper turning
  • No insurance or no license to operate a vehicle or misrepresenting a license
  • Failure to yield to a car or pedestrian
  • Safety violations, following another vehicle closely and passing a bus
  • Not signaling
  • Hit-and-runs involving a bicycle or pedestrian
  • Having defective equipment or using the wrong road
  • Comprehensive or other citations

To define generations, LendingTree analysts used the following ranges from the Pew Research Center:

  • Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2005; ages 18 to 26 in 2023 — we only included Gen Z adults)
  • Millennial (born between 1981 and 1996; ages 27 to 42 in 2023)
  • Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980; ages 43 to 58 in 2023)
  • Baby boomer (born between 1946 and 1964; ages 59 to 77 in 2023)
  • Silent generation (born between 1928 and 1945; ages 78 to 95 in 2023)

Source

This article originally appeared on LendingTree and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on LendingTree and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

Like MediaFeed's content? Be sure to follow us.