Driving carries extra risk for them.
In every motorized country teenage drivers represent a major hazard. The problem is worse in the United States than elsewhere. Until the mid 1990s most states allowed teens to get full-privilege licenses at an earlier age than in most other countries, and little driving experience typically was required prior to licensure. The result was greatly elevated crash risk among young drivers. As more and more states have adopted graduated licensing systems, which phase in full driving privileges, the crash problem is expected to decrease. Teenagers drive less than all but the oldest people, but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high. Based on crashes of all severities, the crash rate per mile driven for 16-19 year-olds is 4 times the risk for older drivers. Risk is highest at age 16. In fact, the crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16 year-olds as it is for 18-19 year-olds.
Crash rates for young drivers are high largely because of their immaturity combined with driving inexperience. The immaturity is apparent in young drivers' risky driving practices such as speeding and tailgating. At the same time, teenagers' lack of experience behind the wheel makes it difficult for them to recognize and respond to hazards. They get in trouble trying to handle unusual driving situations, even small emergencies, and these situations turn disastrous more often than when older people drive. Fatal crashes involving young drivers typically are single-vehicle crashes, primarily run-off-the-road crashes, that involve driver error and/or speeding. They often occur when other young people are in the vehicle with the young driver, so teenagers are disproportionately involved in crashes as passengers as well as drivers. Williams, A.F.; Preusser, D.F.; Ulmer, R.G.; and Weinstein, H.B. 1995. Characteristics of fatal crashes of 16-year-old drivers: implications for licensure policies. Journal of Public Health Policy 16:347-360. Williams, A.F. and Ferguson, S.A. 2002. Rationale for graduated licensing and the risks it should address. Injury Prevention 8(Suppl II):ii9-ii16. Williams, A.F. 2003. Teenage drivers: patterns of risk. Journal of Safety Research 34:5-15.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
A total of 5,288 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2005. This is 40 percent fewer than in 1975, and 6 percent fewer than in 2004. About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2005 were males. Since 1975 teenage motor vehicle crash deaths have decreased more among males (47 percent) than among females (19 percent).
Teenage motor vehicle deaths by gender, 1975-2005
Teenagers accounted for 10 percent of the US population in 2005 and 12 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths. They comprised 14 percent of passenger vehicle (cars, pickups, SUVs, and vans) occupant deaths among all ages, 7 percent of pedestrian deaths, 5 percent of motorcyclist deaths, and 13 percent of bicyclist deaths.
Eighty-four percent of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2005 were passenger vehicle occupants. The others were pedestrians (6 percent), motorcyclists (4 percent), bicyclists (2 percent), riders of all-terrain vehicles (2 percent), and people in other kinds of vehicles (2 percent).
In 2004, the latest year for which data are available, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death among 13-19-year-old males and females in the United States. Thirty-six percent of deaths among 13-19 year-olds occurred in motor vehicle crashes, 41 percent among females and 34 percent among males.
Fifty-four percent of teenage passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2005 were drivers.
Sixty-one percent of teenage passenger deaths in 2005 occurred in vehicles driven by another teenager. Among deaths of passengers of all ages, 19 percent occurred when a teenager was driving.
In 2005 belt use among fatally injured drivers ages 16-19 (41 percent) was higher than among drivers ages 20-29 (34 percent). Belt use among fatally injured passengers ages 16-19 (31 percent) was considerably lower than among teenage drivers (41 percent). Note that belt use among those fatally injured is not always accurately recorded, but it gives an indication of relative belt use rates in serious crashes by age group.
From 1975 to 2005 the rate of deaths per 100,000 people declined by 39 percent for teenagers (from 29 to 18 per 100,000). In contrast, the death rate declined by 63 percent for people 12 and younger (from 8 to 3 per 100,000), 26 percent for people ages 20-69 (from 22 to 17 per 100,000), and 27 percent for people 70 and older (from 26 to 19 per 100,000).
The rate of deaths per 100,000 people in 2005 peaked at ages 18-19 for male drivers (25 per 100,000) and male passengers (11 per 100,000). Death rates peaked at age 18 for female drivers (11 per 100,000) and female passengers (9 per 100,000).
Deaths in passenger vehicles per 100,000 people by seating position, age, and gender, 2005
The rate of fatal passenger vehicle crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled in 2001-02 was highest at ages 16-17 for male drivers and at age 16 for female drivers. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Unpublished study. Analysis of data from the US Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the National Household Travel Survey. Arlington, VA.
The rate of nighttime fatal passenger vehicle crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled in 2001-02 was almost 6 times higher for male drivers ages 16-19 than for male drivers ages 30-59. The corresponding comparison for females yields 3 times the rate. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Unpublished study. Analysis of data from the US Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the National Household Travel Survey. Arlington, VA.
Fifty-four percent of motor vehicle crash deaths among teenagers in 2005 occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
Half of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2005 occurred between 3pm and midnight.
Young drivers are less likely than adults to drive after drinking alcohol, but their crash risk is substantially higher when they do. This is especially true at low and moderate blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Mayhew, D.R.; Donelson, A.C.; Beirness, D.J.; and Simpson, H.M. 1986. Youth, alcohol, and relative risk of crash involvement. Accident Analysis and Prevention 18:273-87. Zador, P.L.; Krawchuck, S.A.; and Voas, R.B. 2000. Alcohol-related relative risk of driver fatalities and driver involvements in fatal crashes in relation to driver age and gender: an update using 1996 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 61:387-95. The estimated percentage of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers ages 16-17 who had BACs at or above 0.08 percent in 2005 was 15 percent, down 63 percent since 1982. Most of this decline took place in the 1980s. This age group experienced the greatest decline in alcohol involvement, compared with a 49 percent decline for drivers ages 18-20, a 21 percent decline for drivers ages 21-30, and a 35 percent decline for drivers older than 30.
Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age, 1982-2005
Fatally injured female teenage drivers were less likely than male teenage drivers in 2005 to have high BACs. Among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers ages 16-17, 18 percent of males and 10 percent of females in 2005 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. Among fatally injured drivers ages 18-19, 30 percent of males and 16 percent of females had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.
©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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