Teenagers | 2005

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).

Trends

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

Motor vehicle crash deaths among 13-19 year-olds by gender, 1975-2005
YearMaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%Num
19756,532752,215258,748
19766,826732,530279,356
19776,983722,650289,633
19787,295732,645279,940
19797,280732,639279,920
19806,932732,591279,524
19816,014722,301288,315
19825,354731,969277,323
19834,850711,955296,805
19844,947712,005296,952
19854,715702,022306,737
19865,280712,182297,466
19875,107702,186307,293
19885,036702,204307,242
19894,528682,158326,688
19904,420691,944316,364
19913,891681,867325,760
19923,495671,713335,215
19933,678681,742325,421
19943,770671,859335,632
19953,702651,970355,675
19963,855661,963345,819
19973,715652,014355,730
19983,649651,960355,610
19993,745652,007355,752
20003,759661,925345,685
20013,735671,859335,594
20023,939662,015345,954
20033,772661,946345,718
20043,696651,948355,645
20053,491661,796345,288
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

US teenage and total population, 2005
Teen populationTotal population% Teens of total population
29,589,854296,410,40410
Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths as percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths, 2005
Death typeTeen motor
vehicle deaths
Motor vehicle
deaths for all ages
% Teen motor vehicle
deaths of all motor vehicle deaths
Passenger vehicle occupant4,44031,32214
Pedestrian3264,8817
Motorcyclist2374,4395
Bicyclist10078213
Other992,0195
Total5,28843,44312

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).

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by type and age, 2005
AgePassenger vehicle deathsMotorcyclist deathsPedestrian deathsBicyclist deathsAll-terrain vehicle deathsOtherTotal motor vehicle deaths*
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
13107618529171488595175
1415562833413311262187252
15289721434912184205123402
167228814249661213121824
1790988363505141811411,031
181,15489534524101811811,295
191,104841048635711511611,309
Total4,440842374326610028629925,288
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

Leading causes of death among teenagers by gender, 2004
Cause of deathMaleFemaleTotal
Motor vehicles3,6621,9675,629
Homicide1,7273372,064
Suicide1,4814351,916
Malignant neoplasms559396955
Motor vehicle crash deaths as a percent of deaths from all causes by gender and age, 2004
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
Motor vehicle
deaths
All deaths%Motor vehicle
deaths
All deaths%Motor vehicle
deaths
All deaths%
<532718,367230614,354263332,7212
5-93431,645212711,243226142,88821
10-122321,11921166773213981,89221
13-155782,226263991,355299773,58127
16-171,2643,364387211,588461,9854,92240
18-191,8545,323358281,934432,6837,25737
20-244,33514,909291,3984,806295,73319,71529
25-292,85313,554219325,217183,78618,77120
30-5912,713253,04554,966153,274317,680406,3194
60-691,977183,08711,151132,43113,128315,5181
≥ 702,967684,755<12,249898,930<15,2191,583,685<1
*Total includes other and/or unknowns
NOTE: Data on motor vehicle crashes come from FARS. Data on other causes
of death come from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles

Fifty-four percent of teenage passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2005 were drivers.

Passenger vehicle teenage occupant deaths by age and seating position, 2005
AgeDriverPassengerTotal*
Num%Num%Num
133310295107
14161013889155
15572023180289
163564936551722
175195738642909
1873664415361,154
1972466380341,104
Total2,411542,017454,440
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

Passenger vehicle passenger deaths by passenger age and driver age, 2005
Passenger ageDriver ageAll ages*
13-1920-2425-2930-5960-69≥ 70
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
<13969172162132054351273611,062
13-191,22261384191105266131716<12,017
20-24250187185121615207154<15<11,417
25-29537213282613521128612<1754
30-59138628112286121,4836211955222,385
60-6911210215320140176358717503
≥ 701411512523412915713623531,177
All ages*1,787191,810191,131123,27235508578489,369
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

Seat belt use among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants by age and seating position, 2005
AgeDriversPassengers
Belt usedUnbeltedUnknownBelt usedUnbeltedUnknown
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%
1300267133353453521414
14161275319483573531712
152340325624662914764188
1615945173492471123121960349
1721742261504181293324263154
1831042368505881243026163307
1926236404565881102923462369
20-241,113351,88158224737627921651208
25-29698331,2345917082012749165628
30-593,768405,072546036832351,373581808
60-69968527764211462755519238367
≥ 701,763628813118477996831026686
Total*9,2884211,103511,48973,695394,962537128
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Population and mileage rates

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).

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age group, 1975-2005
 <1313-1920-69≥ 70
PopulationNumRatePopulationNumRatePopulationNumRatePopulationNumRate
197545,851,3043,6437.929,795,0238,74829.4125,762,92728,15422.414,563,9453,77525.9
197645,000,7043,4247.629,909,4149,35631.3128,164,92628,65422.414,960,1203,89626.0
197744,337,3323,3477.529,800,3139,63332.3130,700,53130,74723.515,401,2493,85925.1
197843,907,4673,3677.729,543,2529,94033.6133,257,28532,90624.715,876,5413,82424.1
197943,778,9593,1717.229,077,6079,92034.1135,810,30433,90725.016,388,6173,77223.0
198043,914,3423,0486.928,486,4879,52433.4137,925,91334,32924.916,897,9773,86122.8
198144,049,9402,7336.227,743,9478,31530.0140,349,00733,83724.117,322,7143,87122.3
198244,131,5962,5735.827,160,5867,32327.0142,588,42630,15021.117,783,8883,65520.6
198344,119,2972,5185.726,737,4976,80525.5144,701,35829,34120.318,233,7513,73420.5
198443,978,0442,4225.526,435,8856,95226.3146,747,91630,58520.818,662,9384,05221.7
198544,260,1362,4695.626,001,2476,73725.9148,589,56430,15720.319,072,7854,20622.1
198644,755,4542,5375.725,592,4817,46629.2150,321,42631,39520.919,463,4804,44522.8
198745,348,2472,6545.925,209,6157,29328.9151,840,34431,75020.919,890,8174,55522.9
198845,942,9662,7015.925,004,4457,24229.0153,249,14532,07120.920,302,2804,92524.3
198946,690,6042,6585.724,664,3006,68827.1154,744,81831,16320.120,719,3974,94323.9
199047,472,5272,3324.924,404,7956,36426.1156,422,79130,93419.821,164,2834,84422.9
199148,240,7472,2574.724,066,5875,76023.9158,093,86128,53618.121,751,8974,84322.3
199248,903,6682,1654.424,163,1755,21521.6159,641,63926,85916.822,321,2174,90122.0
199349,335,8642,1644.424,664,0915,42122.0160,981,98027,20416.922,800,6735,22122.9
199449,692,4622,3014.625,219,8385,63222.3162,170,87627,27116.823,243,8455,42523.3
199549,920,4842,2014.425,764,3005,67522.0163,424,73528,34817.323,693,7575,50923.3
199650,085,1882,1864.426,357,1985,81922.1164,729,86328,36517.224,056,3235,57823.2
199750,364,9832,1084.226,730,8125,73021.4166,278,99528,19417.024,408,8175,87224.1
199850,527,4762,0324.027,174,7285,61020.6167,752,24827,97016.724,793,5515,79823.4
199950,667,1391,9973.927,518,1565,75220.9169,412,71328,22416.725,092,8055,65722.5
200052,219,4231,8883.628,326,4125,68520.1176,086,44828,87416.425,559,8795,37921.0
200152,341,3951,7513.328,437,7115,59419.7178,525,50229,30916.425,797,4675,42521.0
200252,332,3061,6173.128,644,3135,95420.8180,959,27529,98316.626,005,3265,33220.5
200352,187,6021,6433.129,028,5005,71819.7183,371,92830,07016.426,200,9465,36320.5
200452,151,4061,6453.229,400,3925,64519.2185,766,08830,32716.326,337,5185,10619.4
200552,149,3951,5192.929,589,8545,28817.9188,012,48631,34716.726,658,6695,03218.9

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

Deaths in passenger vehicles per 100,000 people by seating position, age, and gender, 2005
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDriver deathsPassenger deathsPopulationDriver deathsPassenger deathsPopulationDriver deaths *Passenger deaths *
NumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRate
<1326,679,52700.05372.025,469,86800.05242.152,149,39500.01,0612.0
132,170,13620.1572.62,071,28410.0442.14,241,42030.11012.4
142,206,915100.5753.42,102,53060.3633.04,309,445160.41383.2
152,248,891391.71084.82,137,565180.81235.84,386,456571.32315.3
162,164,01623210.72019.32,059,2231246.01648.04,223,2393568.43658.6
172,131,94133615.822110.42,028,0881839.01658.14,160,02951912.53869.3
182,111,87152224.724211.52,007,23021410.71738.64,119,10173617.941510.1
192,133,50454325.524011.22,016,6601819.01406.94,150,16472417.43809.2
20-2410,856,9362,46922.79588.810,180,9247497.44594.521,037,8603,21815.31,4176.7
25-2910,268,1691,59615.55044.99,797,5335065.22502.620,065,7022,10210.57543.8
30-5961,413,5556,62710.81,2122.062,362,0622,8164.51,1731.9123,775,6179,4437.62,3851.9
60-6910,923,4391,23211.31641.512,209,8686265.13392.823,133,3071,8588.05032.2
≥ 7010,690,8461,89217.73573.315,967,8239355.98205.126,658,6692,82710.61,1774.4
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

Fatal passenger vehicle crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled by driver age and gender, April 2001-March 2002
AgeMalesFemalesTotal*
Crash involvementsMilesRateCrash involvementsMilesRateCrash involvementsMilesRate
166455,813,200,81211.13765,178,574,3037.31,02110,991,775,1169.3
179818,852,565,18811.14298,154,664,7685.31,41017,007,229,9578.3
181,28216,804,407,9407.650810,771,468,1744.71,79027,575,876,1146.5
191,34714,957,220,0709.053811,159,768,8594.81,88526,116,988,9287.2
20-245,36594,285,456,4435.71,81972,854,283,3382.57,184167,139,739,7804.3
25-293,528131,714,125,4172.71,34483,429,400,6171.64,873215,143,526,0352.3
30-5914,904845,507,965,6891.86,927551,350,306,4301.321,83113968582721191.6
60-692,088128,814,817,8451.61,00664,778,212,7901.63,094193,593,030,6351.6
≥ 703,14576,991,652,5604.11,57139,093,332,0094.04,716116,084,984,5694.1
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.  

Nighttime (9pm-6am) fatal passenger vehicle crash involvements
per 100 million miles traveled by age and gender, April 2001-March 2002
AgeMalesFemales
Crash involvementsMilesRateCrash involvementsMilesRate
16-191,7536,868,242,23025.55585,288,492,85810.6
20-294,38734,863,762,48612.61,02116,250,031,8666.3
30-594,659100,198,843,5834.61,49942,841,189,8213.5
60-693348,575,497,3493.9973,894,479,5172.5
≥ 702433,451,274,2997.0731,370,058,2965.3

When teenagers died

Fifty-four percent of motor vehicle crash deaths among teenagers in 2005 occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by day of week, 2005
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday94818
Monday64012
Tuesday58211
Wednesday62312
Thursday59011
Friday85316
Saturday1,04920
Total*5,288100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Half of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2005 occurred between 3pm and midnight.

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by time of day, 2005
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am81315
3am-6am4408
6am-9am4689
9am-noon3186
Noon-3pm55511
3pm-6pm85716
6pm-9pm85516
9pm-midnight94118
Total*5,288100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Alcohol involvement

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

Estimated percent and number of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by age group, 1982-2005
Year16-1718-2021-30>30
Driver
deaths
Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Driver deathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Driver deathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Driver deathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
1982895368412,5611,458576,2433,948639,8614,20843
1983899345382,4271,336556,0533,859649,8443,94340
1984969321332,4721,274526,4113,8856110,3373,86037
1985935250272,2921,009446,2623,6595810,4413,71336
19861,172336292,4641,158476,6953,9745911,0423,88735
19871,192311262,4381,004416,8023,9755811,5794,01635
19881,177302262,6111,056406,8193,9915912,1454,20335
19891,060234222,476991406,4753,6755712,4014,27234
1990999224222,398974416,1523,5105712,2744,23835
1991902193212,119852405,6233,1835711,8013,99334
1992900165181,797664375,1222,7595411,6393,82333
1993935152161,870643345,0652,6585212,0383,85132
19941,006167171,984632324,9752,4845012,5223,77130
19951,015150151,968575295,0812,5855113,2464,15531
19961,106186171,920583304,9892,4755013,4784,07030
19971,090180171,944593314,7722,2724813,7734,00129
19981,059161152,035607304,5772,2224913,8393,93028
19991,092172162,169677314,6532,2604913,8703,86628
2000999158162,251686304,7062,2684813,7433,99729
2001993132132,254691314,7352,3585013,7904,00529
20021,126155142,326718314,9382,4625014,0064,02029
2003994159162,266699314,8522,3084813,9573,93028
2004969149152,206665304,9702,3724813,6893,74327
2005875134152,103609295,0402,5025013,7663,84228

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.

Estimated percent and number of fatally injured passenger vehicle
drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by gender and age, 2005
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
Driver
deaths
Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Driver
deaths
Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Driver
deaths
Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
16-1756810218307321087513415
18-191,0653173039562161,46037926
2049219940151322164323036
21-303,8302,141561,210362305,0402,50250
31-606,5222,774432,780667249,3023,44237
61-701,183216186104071,79325714
>701,78911568812832,6711435
All ages*15,5175,887386,3601,2281921,8807,11733
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References