Teen Drivers

A number of factors, including driver education, driver behavior, and alcohol impairment can have an effect on teen car crash fatalities and injuries.

Driver Education

A recent epidemiological study examined a census of all teen drivers in Nebraska during an eight-year period, from 2003 to 2010, to assess the impact of participating in a driver education program.

Crash experiences were compared between teens who obtained an intermediate-level provisional operator’s permit in a graduated driver licensing environment after completing a driver education program, and teens who obtained a provisional permit by completing a supervised driving certification log without taking driver education.  

Teens participating in driver education experienced fewer crashes and violations. This improvement continued even after controlling for demographic variables such as gender, race/ethnicity, median household income, urban-rural residence, and age. The lower crash and violation prevalence among driver education participants lasted through the first two years of driving with an intermediate license as part of a graduated driver licensing system

Source: Shell, D.F., Newman, I.M., Cordova-Cazar, A.L., & Heese, J.M. (2015). Driver education and teen crashes and traffic violations in the first two years of driving in a graduated licensing system. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 82, 45-52.

Driver Behavior

A naturalistic driving study using Ltyx DrivCam in-vehicle video camera systems explored driver behaviors associated with 1,691 young driver crashes from August 2007 through July 2013. Drivers ranged from 16 to 19 years old and lived in the Midwest region of the United States. Results found that young drivers drove too fast for conditions in 79% of single-vehicle crashes, followed too closely in 36% of rear-end crashes, and failed to yield to another vehicle in 43% of angle crashes.

Source: Carne, C., McGehee, D., Harland, K., Weiss, M., & Raby, M. (2015). Using naturalistic driving data to assess the prevalence of environmental factors and driver behaviors in teen driver crashes. Downloaded Nov. 9, 2016, from aaafoundation.org

Speeding

The latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data confirm speeding is associated with a disproportionate number of young driver fatal crashes. In 2018, 30% of fatal crashes among young male drivers (15 to 20 years old) involved speeding compared to 15% of crashes involving middle-age male drivers (45 to 54 years old). Fatal crashes involving females follow a similar trend. Eighteen percent of fatal crashes among young female drivers involved speeding, compared to 9% of crashes involving middle-age female drivers.

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Source: NSC analysis of NHTSA FARS data.

Alcohol

In 2018, a total of 774 young drivers 15 to 20 years old involved in a fatal crash tested positive for alcohol (BACs of 0.01 g/dL or higher). Twenty-four percent of young drivers killed in crashes had some alcohol in their system, while 19% were impaired (with BACs of 0.08 g/dL or higher). Laws in all states and the District of Columbia prohibit drinking among people younger than 21. Although young drivers continue to be involved in alcohol-impaired crashes, these laws are saving lives. NHTSA estimates that 31,959 lives were saved since 1975 because of these state laws.

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Source: NSC analysis of NHTSA FARS data and National Center for Statistics and Analysis (2019, May). Young drivers: 2017 data. (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 753). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.