Characteristics of vehicles driven by teens and adults killed in crashes, 2013–2017

Weast, Rebecca A. / Monfort, Samuel S.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
August 2020

Introduction: Teen drivers experience higher crash risk than their experienced adult counterparts. Legislative and community outreach methods have attempted to reduce this risk; results have been mixed. The increasing presence of vehicle safety features across the fleet has driven fatality numbers down in the past decades, but the disparity between young drivers and others remains.
Method: We merged Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data on fatal crashes with vehicle characteristic data from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). The analysis compared the vehicle type, size, age, and the presence of select safety features in vehicles driven by teens (ages 15–17 years) and adult drivers (ages 35–50 years) who were killed in crashes from 2013 to 2017. Results were compared with a similar analysis conducted on data from 2007 to 2012.
Results: Teen drivers were more likely than their adult counterparts to be killed while driving older, smaller vehicles that were less likely to have the option to be equipped with side airbags.
Discussion: Teenage drivers remain more likely to be killed while driving older, smaller vehicles than adult drivers. Parents and guardians are mainly responsible for teen vehicle choice, and should keep vehicle size, weight, and safety features in mind when placing their teen in a vehicle.