vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young
people 15 to 20 years of age, causing roughly one-third
of all fatalities in this age group. Last year, over
6,000 young people ages 15-20 died in motor vehicle
crashes. Even though this age group makes up only 7%
of the driving population, they are involved in 14%
of all traffic fatalities. Teens were also involved
in more than two million non-fatal traffic crashes last
year. Based on population projections, these numbers
will go up unless we intervene. (See chart below.)
the basis of miles driven, teenagers are involved in
three times as many fatal crashes as are all drivers.
Why do young drivers have such poor driving performance?
Three factors work together to make the teen years so
deadly for young drivers:
behavior and immaturity
All young drivers start out with very little knowledge
or understanding of the complexities of driving a motor
vehicle. Like any other skill, learning to drive well
takes a lot of time. Technical ability, good judgment
and experience all are needed to properly make the many
continuous decisions, small and large, that add up to
behavior and immaturity: Adolescent impulsiveness is
a natural behavior, but it results in poor driving judgment
and participation in high-risk behaviors such as speeding,
inattention, drinking and driving, and not using a seat
belt. Peer pressure also often encourages risk taking.
risk exposure: Teens often drive at night with other
teens in the vehicle, factors that increase crash risk.
drivers are different from other drivers, and their
crash experience is different. Compared to other drivers,
a higher proportion of teenagers are responsible for
their fatal crashes because of their own driving errors:
larger percentage of fatal crashes involving teenage
drivers are single-vehicle crashes compared to those
involving other drivers. In this type of fatal crash,
the vehicle usually leaves the road and overturns or
hits a roadside object, such as a tree or a pole.
In general, a smaller percentage of teens wear their
seat belts compared to other drivers.
A larger proportion of teen fatal crashes involve speeding,
or going too fast for road conditions, compared to other
More teen fatal crashes occur when passengers
usually other teenagers are in the car than do
crashes involving other drivers. Two out of three teens
who die as passengers are in vehicles driven by other
US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic