Teenagers | 2006

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. Fatal crashes involving young drivers typically are single-vehicle crashes and often 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.

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 5,156 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006. This is 41 percent fewer than in 1975, and 3 percent fewer than in 2005. About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 were males. Since 1975 teenage motor vehicle crash deaths have decreased more among males (48 percent) than among females (22 percent).

Teenage motor vehicle deaths by gender, 1975-2006

Motor vehicle crash deaths among 13-19 year-olds by gender, 1975-2006
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
20053,496661,803345,300
20063,404661,732345,156
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Teenagers accounted for 10 percent of the US population in 2006 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, 4 percent of motorcyclist deaths, and 10 percent of bicyclist deaths.

US teenage and total population, 2006
Teen populationTotal population% Teens of total population
29,772,198299,398,48410
Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths as percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths, 2006
Death typeTeen motor vehicle deathsMotor vehicle deaths for all ages% Teen motor vehicle deaths
of all motor vehicle deaths
Passenger vehicle occupant4,35730,47614
Pedestrian3174,7847
Motorcyclist2064,6974
Bicyclist7977010
Other1021,9155
Total5,15642,64212

Eighty-five percent of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2006 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, 2006
AgePassenger vehicle occupantsMotorcyclistsPedestriansBicyclistsAll-terrain vehicle occupantsOtherTotal motor vehicle deaths*
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
13886143231611811886145
14150671<1431912563115223
152887692381012324682379
166658771547111111172765
17905901514241311721721,009
181,171877865841111212121,351
191,09085927595911412021,284
Total4,357852064317679295210225,156
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

In 2005, 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-three percent of deaths among 13-19 year-olds occurred in motor vehicle crashes, 40 percent among females and 31 percent among males.

Leading causes of death among teenagers by gender, 2005
Cause of deathMaleFemaleTotal
Motor vehicles3,4521,8015,253
Homicide1,9153042,219
Suicide1,4453641,809
Malignant neoplasms576405981
Motor vehicle crash deaths as a percent of deaths from all causes by gender and age, 2005
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
Motor vehicle deathsAll deaths%Motor vehicle deathsAll deaths%Motor vehicle deathsAll deaths%
<532518,783227014,413259633,1962
5- 93161,556202681,281215852,83721
10-121981,02219150735203481,75720
13-155012,303223291,219278313,52224
16-171,1653,379346951,487471,8604,86638
18-191,8305,479337791,844422,6097,32336
20-244,52615,623291,3754,908285,90120,53129
25-292,98214,242218955,326173,87819,56820
30-5913,310260,81055,111157,340318,421418,1504
60-692,169185,85311,145134,20613,314320,0591
≥703,025698,426<12,138917,527<15,1671,615,953<1
*Total includes other and/or unknowns
Note: Data on motor vehicle crashes come from FARS. Data on other causes of death come from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles

In 2006, 61 percent of deaths among passenger vehicle occupants ages 16-19 were drivers.

Passenger vehicle teenage occupant deaths by age and seating position, 2006
AgeDriverPassengerTotal*
Num%Num%Num
1367829388
1410713993150
15531823381288
163244933951665
175305936941905
1873863427361,171
1973267351321,090
Total2,393551,940454,357
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-two percent of teenage passenger deaths in 2006 occurred in vehicles driven by another teenager. Among deaths of passengers of all ages, 20 percent occurred when a teenager was driving.

Passenger vehicle passenger deaths by passenger age and driver age, 2006
Passenger ageDriver ageAll ages*
<1313-1920-2425-2930-5960-69≥70
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
<132< 19291491520220526522121011,010
13-19001,1976239420774255136< 16< 11,940
20-2400228167165122216211153<13< 11,393
25-2900507233322273119427712< 1723
30-5900146625511283121,4096113764922,304
60-690015319416317236162339820484
≥700071182111265271351453955978
All ages*2< 11,739201,792201,043123,04734472570888,875
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

In 2006, belt use among fatally injured drivers ages 16-19 (39 percent) was higher than among fatally injured drivers ages 20-29 (34 percent) but lower than among drivers 30 and older. Among fatally injured 16-19 year-old occupants, belt use among passengers (27 percent) was considerably lower than among drivers (39 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, 2006
AgeDriversPassengers
Belt usedUnbeltedUnknownBelt usedUnbeltedUnknown
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%
134670023327334757810
1433066011046338259118
151325366848763313859198
1613742163502479929205603510
1722342282532551032824065267
18274374185746610525271635112
1926536398546999627217623811
20-241,109341,87758271838227880631319
25-29748341,29158189818926462647210
30-593,784414,794526237887381,233541848
60-69912536753913182675518638316
≥701,625618653217976546725026748
Total*9,1064210,817501,57473,492394,611527729
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Among teenage passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006, about half were involved in single vehicle crashes. This was similar to the proportion for drivers ages 20-24 but higher than for drivers ages 25 and older.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2006
 Single vehicleMultiple vehicleAll crashes*
Num%Num%Num
16-192,544492,691515,237
20-243,383483,730527,122
25-292,156422,934585,097
30-597,6833712,9446320,642
60-691,058322,260683,321
≥ 701,072272,956734,036
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Population and mileage rates

From 1975 to 2006, the rate of deaths per 100,000 people declined by 41 percent for teenagers (from 29 to 17 per 100,000). In contrast, the death rate declined by 66 percent for people 12 and younger (from 8 to 3 per 100,000), 27 percent for people ages 20-69 (from 22 to 16 per 100,000), and 34 percent for people 70 and older (from 26 to 17 per 100,000).

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age group, 1975-2006
 <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
200552,149,3951,5292.929,589,8545,30017.9188,012,48631,51416.826,658,6695,04718.9
200652,306,9081,4262.729,772,1985,15617.3190,434,58031,29616.426,884,7984,61117.2

The rate of deaths per 100,000 people in 2006 peaked at ages 18-19 for male drivers (25 per 100,000) and at age 18 for male passengers (12 per 100,000). Death rates peaked at age 18 for female drivers (10 per 100,000) and at age 16 and age 18 for female passengers (8 per 100,000).

Deaths in passenger vehicles per 100,000 people by seating position, age, and gender, 2006

Deaths in passenger vehicles per 100,000 people by seating position, age, and gender, 2006
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDriver deathsPassenger deathsPopulationDriver deathsPassenger deathsPopulationDriver deaths*Passenger deaths*
NumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRate
<1326,755,29810.04781.825,551,61010.05322.152,306,90820.01,0101.9
132,147,06640.2401.92,041,29920.1422.14,188,36560.1822.0
142,179,51580.4683.12,080,13220.1713.44,259,647100.21393.3
152,216,504341.51245.62,111,463190.91095.24,327,967531.22335.4
162,259,2141958.61707.52,146,6641296.01687.84,405,8783247.43387.7
172,177,11035416.322410.32,069,6871768.51457.04,246,79753012.53698.7
182,148,05753124.726812.52,040,04220710.11597.84,188,09973817.642710.2
192,133,97954225.422610.62,021,4661909.41256.24,155,44573217.63518.4
20-2410,910,0902,47622.79528.710,201,1507787.64414.321,111,2403,25415.41,3936.6
25-2910,584,2701,67315.84814.510,125,2105545.52422.420,709,4802,22710.87233.5
30-5961,965,5846,40510.31,1861.962,910,4842,7944.41,1151.8124,876,0689,1997.42,3011.8
60-6911,217,4311,15810.31491.312,520,3615594.53332.723,737,7921,7177.24822.0
≥7010,818,0341,73316.02872.716,066,7649355.86914.326,884,7982,6689.99783.6
*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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 did

Fifty-four percent of motor vehicle crash deaths among teenagers in 2006 occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by day of week, 2006
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday92918
Monday60512
Tuesday61412
Wednesday58711
Thursday59011
Friday79816
Saturday1,03320
Total*5,156100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Thirty-four percent of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2006 occurred between 6 pm and midnight.

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by time of day, 2006
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am81116
3am-6am4459
6am-9am4849
9am-noon3236
Noon-3pm51610
3pm-6pm80916
6pm-9pm76415
9pm-midnight96819
Total*5,156100
*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 2006 was 18 percent, down 57 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 46 percent decline for drivers ages 18-20, a 22 percent decline for drivers ages 21-30, and a 34 percent decline for drivers older than 30.

Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs >0.08 percent by driver age, 1982-2006

Estimated percent and number of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs≥0.08 percent by age group, 1982-2006
YearAges 16-17Ages 18-20Ages 21-30Ages >30
Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 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
2005879132152,106603295,0672,4924913,8093,85228
2006854151182,156660315,1312,5284913,2563,76028

Fatally injured female teenage drivers were less likely than male teenage drivers in 2006 to have high BACs. Among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers ages 16-17, 21 percent of males and 13 percent of females in 2006 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. Among fatally injured drivers ages 18-19, 31 percent of males and 17 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, 2006
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
16-1754911321305381385415118
18-191,0733333139768171,47040127
2051221442174442568625838
21-303,8862,106541,241421345,1312,52849
31-606,2652,629422,782741279,0503,37137
61-701,137195175283871,66523314
>701,64512488953032,5411566
All ages*15,1385,732386,3481,3862221,4977,12333
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References