Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal
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|(This article is reproduced, with permission, from the website of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at http://www.highwaysafety.org.)|
In every motorized country, teenage drivers represent a major hazard. The problem is worse in the United States than elsewhere. Until recently, most states have 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 is greatly elevated crash risk among young drivers. As states adopt graduated licensing systems, which phase in full driving privileges, the 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. The risk of crash involvement per mile driven among 16-19 years-old is 4 times the risk among older drivers. Risk is highest at age 16-17. In fact, the crash rate per mile driven is almost 3 times as high among 16 year- olds as it is among 18-19 year-olds.
Crash rates are high largely because of young drivers' immaturity combined with driving inexperience. The immaturity is apparent in young drivers' risky driving practices like 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. More often than when older people drive, these turn disastrous. 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.
The population of 16-19 year-olds decreased during the 1980s which, in turn, held down the problem of teenage drivers. However, this trend ended in 1992. Now the population of 16-19 year-olds is increasing, and so are motor vehicle crash deaths.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System:
DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS
WHEN THEY DIED
|NOTE: Total includes gender unknowns.|
DEATHS BY TYPE, 1999
|Age||Passenger Vehicles||Motorcyclists||Pedestrians||Bicyclists||Other/ Unknown|
|PASSENGER VEHICLE DEATHS BY AGE AND SEATING POSITION, 1999|
|PERCENT OF FATALLY INJURED DRIVERS WITH BACs >= 0.10 PERCENT, 1999|
|PERCENT OF FATALLY INJURED PASSENGER VEHICLE DRIVERS WITH BACs >= 0.10 PERCENT|
VEHICLE DEATHS AS A PERCENT
OF ALL DEATHS, 1998
|Note: All includes gender unknowns|
1 Zador, P; Krawchuck, S.; and Voas, R. 2000. Alcohol-related relative risk of driver fatalities and driver involvement in fatal crashes in relation to driver age and gender: an update using 1996 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 61:387-95.