Teenagers | 2009

In every motorized country, teenage drivers represent a major hazard. In the United States, teenagers drive less than all but the oldest people, but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. [Unpublished analysis of data from the US Department of Transportation's National Household Travel Survey, General Estimates System, and Fatality Analysis Reporting System]. Arlington, VA. In the United States, 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 teenagers are high largely because of their immaturity combined with driving inexperience.

Beginning in the mid 1990s, more and more states have adopted graduated licensing systems, which phase in full driving privileges. In states that have adopted graduated licensing systems, the crash rates among teenage drivers have declined about 10-30 percent. Ulmer, R.G.; Preusser, D.F.; Williams, A.F.; Ferguson, S.A.; and Farmer, C.M. 2000. Effect of Florida's graduated licensing program on the crash rate of teenage drivers. Accident Analysis and Prevention 32:527-32. Shope, J.T. and Molnar, L.J. 2004. Michigan's graduated driver licensing program: evaluation of the first four years. Journal of Safety and Research 35:337-44. Foss, R.D.; Feaganes, J.R.; and Rodgman, E.A. 2001. Initial effects of graduated driver licensing on 16-year-old driver crashes in North Carolina. Journal of the American Medical Association 286:1588-92. Governor's Highway Safety Office. 2001. Review of Ohio's graduated driver license program. Columbus, OH: Ohio Department of Public Safety. Mayhew, D.R.; Simpson, H.M.; Des Groseilliers, M.; and Williams, A.F. 2001. Impact of the graduated driver licensing program in Nova Scotia. Journal of Crash Prevention and Injury Control 2:179-92. Zhu, M.; Chu, H.; and Li, G. 2009. Effects of graduated driver licensing on licensure and traffic injury rates in upstate New York. Accident Analysis and Prevention 41:531-35. Hallmark, S.L.; Veneziano, D.A.; Falb, S.; Pawlovich, M.; and Witt, D. 2008. Evaluation of Iowa's graduated driver's licensing program. Accident Analysis and Prevention 40:1401-05. National studies of graduated licensing laws have found that laws the Institute rated good were associated with substantially lower fatal crash rates among teen drivers, and substantially lower insurance claim rates, than laws rated poor. Strong restrictions on nighttime driving and teen passengers, as well as delayed licensing age, also reduced rates of fatal crashes and insurance collision claims. McCartt, A.T.; Toeh, E.R.; Fields, M.; Braitman, K.A.; and Hellinga, L.A. 2009. Graduated licensing laws and fatal crashes of teenage drivers: a national study. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Trempel, R.E. 2009. Graduated driver licensing laws and insurance collision claim frequencies of teenage drivers. Arlington, VA: Highway Loss Data Institute.

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 3,466 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. This is 60 percent fewer than in 1975 and 15 percent fewer than in 2008. About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 were males. Since 1975 teenage motor vehicle crash deaths have decreased more among males (66 percent) than among females (44 percent).

Teenage motor vehicle deaths by gender, 1975-2009

Motor vehicle crash deaths among 13-19 year-olds by gender, 1975-2009
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
20063,415661,744345,159
20073,280661,701344,981
20082,694661,373344,070
20092,214641,251363,466
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Teenagers accounted for 10 percent of the US population in 2009 and 10 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths. They comprised 12 percent of passenger vehicle (cars, pickups, SUVs, and vans) occupant deaths among all ages, 6 percent of pedestrian deaths, 3 percent of motorcyclist deaths, 10 percent of bicyclist deaths, and 21 percent of all-terrain vehicle rider deaths.

US teenage and total population, 2009
Teen populationTotal population% teens of total population
29,667,279307,006,55010
Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths as percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths, 2009
Death typeTeen crash deathsCrash deaths for all ages% teen crash deaths of all crash deaths
Passenger vehicle occupant2,87223,43712
Pedestrian2564,0926
Motorcyclist1344,2813
Bicyclist6663010
All-terrain vehicle riders7033621
Other681,0327
Total*3,46633,80810
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Eighty-three percent of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2009 were passenger vehicle occupants. The others were pedestrians (7 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, 2009
AgePassenger vehicle occupantsMotorcyclistsPedestriansBicyclistsAll-terrain vehicle ridersOtherTotal motor vehicle deaths*
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
13605633211911104498108
14866032251711810796144
1515167313214115125157224
164158692255102102122481
175299071376717131590
188278747549571131121955
19804836266779114181964
Total2,87283134425676627026823,466
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

In 2007, 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, 39 percent among females and 31 percent among males.

Leading causes of death among teenagers by gender, 2007
Cause of deathMaleFemaleTotal
Motor vehicles3,2821,7144,996
Homicide2,0313382,369
Suicide1,3033041,607
Malignant neoplasms505380885
Motor vehicle crash deaths as a percent of deaths from all causes by gender and age, 2007
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
MV deathsAll deaths%MV deathsAll deaths%MV deathsAll deaths%
< 526918,927124114,914251033,8412
5- 92621,519172121,192184742,71117
10-1215697716129699182851,67617
13-154601,992233051,140277653,13224
16-171,0433,184336501,418461,6934,60237
18-191,7775,471327461,854402,5237,32534
20-244,39115,758281,3104,925275,70120,68328
25-293,01415,107209355,824163,94920,93119
30-5912,926260,83654,624157,555317,551418,3914
60-692,057192,5201998137,12313,055329,6431
≥ 702,728687,521< 11,903893,055< 14,6311,580,576< 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 2009, 59 percent of deaths among passenger vehicle occupants ages 16-19 were drivers.

Passenger vehicle teenage occupant deaths by age and seating position, 2009
AgeDriverPassengerTotal*
Num%Num%Num
13712538860
141113758786
15211413086151
161954721853415
173075821841529
184986032539827
195116429136804
Total1,550541,310462,872
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty percent of teenage passenger deaths in 2009 occurred in vehicles driven by another teenager. Among deaths of passengers of all ages, 18 percent occurred when a teenager was driving.

Passenger vehicle passenger deaths by passenger age and driver age, 2009
Passenger ageDriver ageAll ages*
13-1920-2425-2930-5960-69≥ 70
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
< 13751092121451940854213111754
13-197856026020564185141012< 11,310
20-2414816460501471614015513< 1917
25-29427165281973318231511< 1594
30-5990518511220131,079638653721,707
60-6912313321513935143366717396
≥ 70111111111215241541749355896
All ages*1,164181,19118801122,35836429661696,602
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

In 2009, belt use among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers ages 16-19 (41 percent) was higher than among fatally injured drivers ages 20-29 (36 percent) but lower than among drivers 30 and older combined (48 percent). Among fatally injured 16-19 year-old occupants, belt use among passengers (29 percent) was considerably lower than among 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, 2009
AgeDriversPassengers
Belt usedUnbeltedUnknownBelt usedUnbeltedUnknown
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
1311457111421402445815
1421898200202745601013
1562915710038298263108
16954982421896228132612411
171334315751176612813964188
1820842254513679730196603210
1918937281554188529178612810
20-24843361,3125617782502758263859
25-29621351,0285714081632738064519
30-592,961413,75452520765638916541358
60-69859546273910872406113133256
≥ 701,474656562915376537320823354
Total*7,393448,183491,21572,708413,322505158
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Among passenger vehicle drivers ages 16-19 involved in fatal crashes in 2009, 49 percent were involved in single-vehicle crashes. This was the same for drivers ages 20-24 (49 percent) but higher than for drivers ages 25 and older (39 percent).

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2009
 Single vehicleMultiple vehicleAll crashes*
Num%Num%Num
16-191,761491,835513,600
20-242,546492,630515,177
25-291,836452,249554,087
30-596,485399,9956116,498
60-691,105352,034653,139
70 +1,084312,465693,551
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Population and mileage rates

From 1975 to 2009, the rate of passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes per 100,000 people declined by 57 percent for teenagers ages 16-19 (from 47.6 to 20.7 per 100,000 people), 50 percent for people ages 20-34 (from 38.7 to 19.5 per 100,000 people), 39 percent for people ages 35-69 (from 20.5 to 12.5 per 100,000 people), and 17 percent for people 70 and older (from 15.4 to 12.8 per 100,000 people).

Passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes per 100,000 people by age group, 1975-2009
 16-1920-3435-69≥ 70
PopulationNumRatePopulationNumRatePopulationNumRatePopulationNumRate
197517,016,3558,09447.650,998,09819,71538.774,764,82915,32520.514,563,9452,24915.4
197617,194,0798,45749.252,745,00519,84737.675,419,92115,12720.114,960,1202,39516.0
197717,276,1538,96851.954,497,44821,53039.576,203,08315,71020.615,401,2492,38715.5
197817,287,8359,29753.855,909,06323,28441.677,348,22216,32321.115,876,5412,52415.9
197917,242,1169,24053.657,499,19723,99141.778,311,10716,07520.516,388,6172,38614.6
198017,112,1178,63750.558,814,39123,95740.779,111,52216,00220.216,897,9772,37514.1
198116,756,9847,80046.560,563,41623,75739.279,785,59116,13120.217,322,7142,48714.4
198216,280,2876,50940.061,099,52420,84834.181,488,90214,49117.817,783,8882,52214.2
198315,783,6846,25339.661,840,15419,95532.382,861,20414,45917.418,233,7512,57414.1
198415,257,7506,46442.462,491,25520,96333.584,256,66115,07917.918,662,9382,77014.8
198514,969,8436,27641.962,961,15420,83533.185,628,41015,26517.819,072,7853,00515.8
198614,981,3807,01746.863,115,88922,00834.987,205,53715,73618.019,463,4803,23516.6
198715,172,9177,02146.363,032,29822,38735.588,808,04616,74718.919,890,8173,37617.0
198815,159,1857,24947.862,784,73922,36535.690,464,40617,50019.320,302,2803,62217.8
198914,874,5796,90646.462,494,05621,27334.092,250,76217,77919.320,719,3973,63117.5
199014,424,5096,35644.162,282,68320,71333.394,140,10817,57918.721,164,2833,68817.4
199113,935,3485,71841.062,025,75019,07330.896,068,11116,36617.021,751,8973,76917.3
199213,720,0715,23138.161,427,10017,84629.198,214,53916,37716.722,321,2173,83417.2
199313,874,1645,43439.260,582,33217,69129.2100,399,64817,02417.022,800,6734,14618.2
199414,128,1775,77340.959,629,35117,67229.6102,541,52517,51417.123,243,8454,32518.6
199514,401,1185,87440.858,712,40717,91130.5104,712,32818,86818.023,693,7574,50519.0
199614,907,1916,02140.457,753,91017,73830.7106,975,95319,26518.024,056,3234,56319.0
199715,257,4535,94739.057,046,56916,84729.5109,232,42619,70818.024,408,8174,82319.8
199815,649,2725,93837.956,421,05316,27028.8111,331,19520,03118.024,793,5514,80819.4
199915,927,4646,15838.755,961,40116,15428.9113,451,31219,58417.325,092,8054,80619.2
200016,192,4736,04137.358,971,70916,44427.9117,114,73919,96617.025,559,8794,57417.9
200116,232,9345,98336.959,465,06616,28427.4119,060,43620,28717.025,797,4674,64918.0
200216,287,9996,13437.760,046,06816,68627.8120,913,20720,35816.826,005,3264,54317.5
200316,344,5965,74535.160,599,35016,32926.9122,772,57820,79916.926,200,9464,64417.7
200416,518,0685,72434.761,003,24016,40126.9124,762,84820,51016.426,337,5184,35516.5
200516,652,5335,36032.261,180,77216,51627.0126,831,71421,00416.626,658,6694,23715.9
200616,996,2195,27031.061,527,21916,23726.4128,907,36120,15215.626,884,7984,06415.1
200717,208,8074,97028.961,623,32215,62425.4130,500,56619,69615.127,135,5174,00414.8
200817,314,4174,04623.461,990,54613,69622.1131,908,05817,86813.527,521,0343,73913.6
200917,404,1023,60020.763,105,88112,29819.5132,693,70816,60312.527,786,2703,55112.8

The rate of deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 peaked at age 19 for male drivers (16.4 per 100,000) and at age 18 for male passengers (8.1 per 100,000). Death rates peaked at age 18 for both female drivers (7.4 per 100,000) and for female passengers (6.6 per 100,000).

Deaths in passenger vehicles per 100,000 people by seating position, age, and gender, 2009

Deaths in passenger vehicles per 100,000 people by seating position, age, and gender, 2009
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDriver deathsPassenger deathsPopulationDriver deathsPassenger deathsPopulationDriver deaths*Passenger deaths*
NumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRate
< 1327,482,04200.03671.326,271,37000.03861.553,753,41200.07531.4
132,064,61460.3301.51,968,71210.1231.24,033,32670.2531.3
142,098,77470.3341.61,997,34240.2412.14,096,116110.3751.8
152,117,861120.6612.92,015,87490.4693.44,133,735210.51303.1
162,167,7291145.31054.82,057,113813.91135.54,224,8421954.62185.2
172,207,1511778.01255.72,099,6331306.2934.44,306,7843077.12185.1
182,252,67434115.11838.12,135,9361577.41426.64,388,61049811.33257.4
192,305,87437816.41807.82,177,9921336.11105.14,483,86651111.42906.5
20-2411,093,5521,76715.96225.610,446,0075645.42952.821,539,5592,33110.89174.3
25-2911,115,5601,32111.93863.510,562,1594684.42082.021,677,7191,7898.35942.7
30-5962,143,1665,1758.38811.462,842,9022,0603.38261.3124,986,0687,2355.81,7071.4
60-6913,088,0971,1028.41381.114,508,1464923.42581.827,596,2431,5945.83961.4
≥ 7011,312,3961,49613.22692.416,473,8747874.86273.827,786,2702,2838.28963.2
*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 analysis of data from the US Department of Transportation's National Household Travel Survey, General Estimates System, and Fatality Analysis Reporting System]. 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 analysis of data from the US Department of Transportation's National Household Travel Survey, General Estimates System, and Fatality Analysis Reporting System]. Arlington, VA.

Nighttime (9pm-6am) fatal passenger vehicle crash involvements
per 100 million miles traveled by driver 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

In 2009, June and August had the highest numbers of teenage crash deaths of any months.

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by month, 2009
MonthDeaths%
January2748
February2206
March2678
April2878
May3119
June33310
July3299
August33210
September2888
October2798
November2918
December2557
Total3,466100

Fifty-five percent of motor vehicle crash deaths among teenagers in 2009 occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by day of week, 2009
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday63718
Monday37211
Tuesday38311
Wednesday38711
Thursday43213
Friday53616
Saturday71921
Total*3,466100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2009 occurred most frequently between 6pm and 9pm (18 percent), 9pm and midnight (17 percent), and midnight and 3am (16 percent).

Teenage motor vehicle crash deaths by time of day, 2009
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am55816
3am-6am32910
6am-9am2898
9am-noon2196
noon-3pm35710
3pm-6pm50014
6pm-9pm60618
9pm-midnight58517
Total*3,466100
*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). Peck, R.C; Gebers, M.A.; Voas, R.B.; and Romano, E. 2008. The relationship between blood alcohol concentration (BAC), age, and crash rise. Journal of Safety Research 39:311-19. The estimated percentage of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers ages 16-17 who had BACs at or above 0.08 percent in 2009 was 14 percent, down 65 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 39 percent decline for drivers ages 18-20, a 16 percent decline for drivers ages 21-30, and a 31 percent decline for drivers older than 30.

Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 1982-2009

Estimated percent and number of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by age group, 1982-2009
YearAges 16-17Ages 18-20Ages 21-30Ages > 30
Drivers
killed
Estimated 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%
1982895368412,5611,458576,2443,948639,8614,20843
1983899345382,4271,336556,0533,859649,8453,94340
1984969321332,4721,274526,4123,8856110,3373,86037
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
19941,006167171,984632324,9752,4845012,5253,77130
19951,015150151,968575295,0812,5855113,2464,15531
19961,106186171,920583304,9892,4755013,4784,07030
19971,090180171,946594314,7752,2754813,7774,00429
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
2006859151182,161680315,1592,5354913,3213,77928
2007775133171,953633325,0282,5925212,6973,67529
200858091161,712535314,3882,3275311,5283,30829
200950272141,538537353,8622,0415310,8423,20130

Fatally injured female teenage drivers were less likely than male teenage drivers in 2009 to have high BACs. Among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers ages 16-17, 17 percent of males and 10 percent of females in 2009 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. Among fatally injured drivers ages 18-19, 35 percent of males and 24 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, 2009
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%
16-17291511721122105027214
18-197192543529068241,00932332
2040318847126272152921441
21-302,8921,67858969362373,8622,04153
31-605,1042,328462,062535267,1662,86340
61-701,047202194643071,51123215
> 701,4158267502332,1651055
All ages*11,9024,788404,8871,0712216,7915,86135
*Total includes other and/or unknowns


References