Facts + Statistics: Teen drivers

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Teen Driver Fact Sheet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,908 drivers age 15 to 20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, basically unchanged from 1,903 in 2015.

Drivers age 15 to 20 accounted for 9 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 and 12 percent of all drivers involved in police-reported crashes. In contrast, young drivers accounted for 5.4 percent of total drivers in the United States.

Twenty-four percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 had been drinking some amount of alcohol; 19 percent were alcohol-impaired, which is defined by a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher. Almost half (47 percent) of the young drivers killed in crashes in 2016 where restraint use was known were unrestrained at the time of the crash

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IHHS), graduated licensing systems in U.S. states and Canadian provinces have reduced crashes substantially. Two national studies by the IIHS  and the Highway Loss Data Institute found that strong restrictions on nighttime driving and teenage passengers, along with delaying licensing age, reduce fatal crashes and insurance losses for teenage drivers. In addition, the studies found that delaying permit age reduces fatal crashes and that increasing practice hours reduces insurance losses.

A 2018 study from Global Telematics at LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, a U.K. risk management consulting company, showed that drivers between the ages of 17 and 19 who were killed or seriously injured in crashes in the U.K. fell by 35 percent since 2011. (By contrast, fatalities among young drivers, age 15 to 20, rose 4.3 percent in the United States between 2011 and 2016.) The study says that drivers of all ages are 16 percent less likely to die in crashes when they use telematic insurance, known as usage-based insurance (UBI) in the United States. UBI analyzes data about a driver’s behavior submitted by an electronic device in the driver’s car.

Fatalities in Crashes Involving Young Drivers, 2007–2016

 

Year Young drivers age 15–20 Passenger of young driver Occupants of other vehicles Nonoccu-pants Total
2007 3,190 2,044 1,829 631 7,694
2008 2,742 1,662 1,527 521 6,452
2009 2,343 1,456 1,381 469 5,649
2010 1,965 1,333 1,250 493 5,041
2011 1,993 1,194 1,122 473 4,782
2012 1,880 1,060 1,230 502 4,672
2013 1,696 1,069 1,133 469 4,367
2014 1,723 1,015 1,093 454 4,285
2015 1,903 982 1,326 533 4,744
2016 1,908 1,018 1,338 589 4,853

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Drivers In Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes By Age, 2016

 

Age group Number of
licensed drivers
Percent of
total
Drivers in fatal
crashes
Involvement
rate (1)
16 to 20 12,002,717 5.4% 4,412 36.76
21 to 24 14,460,176 6.5 5,233 36.19
25 to 34 39,194,065 17.7 10,815 27.59
35 to 44 36,500,347 16.5 8,116 22.24
45 to 54 39,407,317 17.8 7,946 20.16
55 to 64 38,379,823 17.3 6,966 18.15
65 to 74 26,070,715 11.8 4,122 15.81
Over 74 15,633,421 7.1 2,971 19.00
Total 221,711,918 100.0% 51,914 (2) 23.42

(1) Per 100,000 licensed drivers.
(2) Includes drivers under the age of 16 and 1,071 drivers of unknown age.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.

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Motor Vehicle Deaths Per 100,000 Persons By Age, 2017

 

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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Percent Of Alcohol-Impaired Drivers Involved In Fatal Crashes By Age, 2008 And 2017 (1)

 

Age 2008 2017 Point change
16 to 20 17% 15% -2 pts.
21 to 24 34 27 -7
25 to 34 31 26 -5
35 to 44 25 23 -2
45 to 54 20 19 -1
55 to 64 12 15 3
65 to 74 6 9 3
Over 74 4 6 2

(1) Alcohol-impaired driving crashes are crashes that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter or above, the legal definition of drunk driving.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Background On: Teen drivers