Road Injury Prevention Litigation Journal
Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal
December, 2000
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TEENAGERS

(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

GENDER DIFFERENCES

ALCOHOL INVOLVEMENT

WHEN THEY DIED

TABLES

TEENAGE MOTOR
VEHICLE DEATHS
  Male Female Total
1975 6,532 2,215 8,748
1976 6,826 2,530 9,356
1977 6,983 2,650 9,633
1978 7,295 2,645 9,940
1979 7,280 2,639 9,920
1980 6,932 2,591 9,524
1981 6,014 2,301 8,315
1982 5,354 1,969 7,323
1983 4,850 1,955 6,805
1984 4,947 2,005 6,952
1985 4,715 2,022 6,737
1986 5,280 2,182 7,466
1987 5,107 2,186 7,293
1988 5,036 2,204 7,242
1989 4,528 2,158 6,688
1990 4,420 1,944 6,364
1991 3,891 1,867 5,760
1992 3,495 1,713 5,215
1993 3,678 1,742 5,421
1994 3,770 1,859 5,632
1995 3,702 1,970 5,675
1996 3,855 1,963 5,819
1997 3,715 2,014 5,730
1998 3,649 1,960 5,610
1999 3,740 2,009 5,749
NOTE: Total includes gender unknowns.

 

TEENAGE MOTOR VEHICLE
DEATHS BY TYPE, 1999
Age Passenger Vehicles Motorcyclists Pedestrians Bicyclists Other/ Unknown
13 124 3 28 23 16
14 198 6 43 25 17
15 370 2 50 21 14
16 859 5 50 24 17
17 1,090 13 39 13 18
18 1,210 44 66 15 20
19 1,182 46 57 10 31
Total 5,033 119 333 131 133

 

PASSENGER VEHICLE DEATHS BY AGE AND SEATING POSITION, 1999
Age Drivers Passengers
13 11 113
14 12 185
15 71 299
16 443 413
17 648 439
18 737 471
19 780 392
Total 2,702 2,312

 

PERCENT OF FATALLY INJURED DRIVERS WITH BACs >= 0.10 PERCENT, 1999 
  Driver Age
  16-17 18-19 20-24 25-34 35-54 >=55
Males 15 28 42 44 38 12
Females 7 14 21 29 20 4

 

PERCENT OF FATALLY INJURED PASSENGER VEHICLE DRIVERS WITH BACs >= 0.10 PERCENT
  Driver Age
  16-20 21-30 >30
1980 49 57 45
1981 46 57 41
1982 47 58 38
1983 45 57 36
1984 41 55 33
1985 36 54 32
1986 36 54 32
1987 32 53 32
1988 32 55 33
1989 30 53 32
1990 32 55 33
1991 31 53 31
1992 27 50 30
1993 26 49 29
1994 23 47 28
1995 21 47 29
1996 22 45 27
1997 22 43 26
1998 22 44 26
1999 22 43 25

 

MOTOR VEHICLE DEATHS AS A PERCENT
OF ALL DEATHS, 1998
Age Male Female All
<5 2 2 2
5- 9 23 22 23
10-12 23 20 22
13-15 23 31 26
16-17 35 50 40
18-19 35 44 37
20-24 29 29 29
25-34 17 14 16
35-54 5 4 5
>=55 1 <1 1
Note: All includes gender unknowns   
©2000, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute

REFERENCES

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.



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