Teen Driver Crashes: 1994-2013

This study investigates the changes and trends in the number of teenage drivers aged 15 – 19 involved in police-reported crashes each year for the 20-year period from 1994 through 2013.

May 2015

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

Brian Tefft

Senior Researcher, Traffic Research Group

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

AAA Teen Driving AAA Senior Driving

Abstract

This study investigates the changes and trends in the number of teenage drivers aged 15 – 19 involved in police-reported crashes each year for the 20-year period from 1994 through 2013, and also quantifies the number of those drivers, their passengers, occupants of other vehicles, and non-occupants such as pedestrians and bicyclists who were injured and killed in crashes involving teenage drivers over the study period.

Teen Driver Crashes 1994-2013

Background 

  • Teenage drivers have higher rates of crashes per driver and per mile driven than any drivers of any other age group.
  • The majority of past research focuses on the number of injuries and deaths of teenage drivers and their passengers, but AAA Foundation research also focuses on crashes that result in injuries or deaths to people outside of the vehicle, such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers or passengers of other vehicles.
    • A previous Foundation study found that between 1998-2007, nearly one-third of people killed in crashes involving drivers aged 15-17 were people outside of the teen driver’s vehicle.

Objective

  • To investigate the changes and trends in the number of teenage drivers aged 15-19 involved in police-reported crashes for the 20 year period from 1994-2013.

Methods

  • Data analyzed were obtained from NHTSA’s General Estimates System (GES) and Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) databases for drivers aged 15-19 years.
    • GES is data from a nationally representative sample of police-reported crashes and FARS data is from all motor vehicle crashes that occur on public roadways in the U.S. and result in a death within 30 days of the crash.
  • Data is from crashes that occurred in years 1994-2013 and involved at least one driver aged 15-19 driving a passenger vehicle were examined.
  • The role of each person injured or killed in these crashes was classified as:
    • Drivers aged 15-19
    • Passenger in vehicle driven by driver aged 15-19
    • Driver or passenger of other vehicle
    • Non-occupant (pedestrian, cyclist, etc.)
  • The report represents the total number of police-reported crashes in which drivers aged 15-19 were involved during the study period, and the number of people injured and killed in those crashes.

Key Findings

  • The number of people injured annually in crashes involving teen drivers declined by 51% between 1994-2013 and the number of people killed each year in teen driver crashes declined by 56%.
    • Most of these declines in injuries and fatalities occurred between 2004 and 2013.
  • In all years examined, 15-year-old drivers were involved in far fewer crashes than older teenage drivers, and decreases in crash involvement were largest in the youngest teens (aged 15 and 16).
    • Declines were larger for fatal crashes than all police-reported crashes overall.
  • The impact of teenage drivers extend well beyond teen drivers and their passengers:
    • 40% of people killed and 50% of people injured in crashes involving a teenage driver are “other” people outside of the teen driver’s vehicle.

Implications

  • The number of young drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes each year has declined substantially in recent years, for teenage drivers of all ages and in crashes of all severities.
  • Reasons for the declines are not entirely clear, but:
    • Numerous studies have shown strong state GDL systems have contributed substantially to reductions in injury and fatal crashes of drivers aged 15-17.
    • Economic factors including rising gas prices and economic recession of 2008 resulted in substantial declines in teen driving and thus teen crashes.

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

Brian Tefft

Senior Researcher, Traffic Research Group

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety