TEENAGERS as of November 2002

Other Institute documents on teenagers

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 more and more 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. 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 following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System:

  • 5,582 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2001. This is 36 percent fewer than in 1975. 
13-19 year-old 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 3,745 2,007 5,752
2000 3,759 1,925 5,685
2001 3,729 1,853 5,582
  • Teenagers accounted for 10 percent of the U.S. population in 2001 and 13 percent of motor vehicle deaths. They represented 15 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2001, 7 percent of pedestrian deaths, 6 percent of motorcycle deaths, and 15 percent of bicycle deaths.
Teenage motor vehicle deaths by type, 2001
Age Passenger vehicles Motorcyclists Pedestrians Bicyclists Other/unknown
13 107 3 38 19 18
14 183 7 44 19 19
15 298 10 40 19 24
16 821 7 43 13 21
17 986 30 61 14 13
18 1,212 57 63 10 30
19 1,190 64 59 13 27
Total 4,797 178 348 107 152
  • Eighty-six percent of teen motor vehicle deaths in 2001 were passenger vehicle occupants. The rest were pedestrians (6 percent), motorcyclists (3 percent), bicyclists (2 percent), and people in other kinds of vehicles (3 percent).
  • Thirty-nine percent of deaths of 16-19 year-olds in 1999 from all causes occurred in crashes. This is the latest year for which this information is available.
Motor vehicle deaths as a percent of all deaths, 1999
Age Male Female All
<5 2 2 2
5-9 23 22 23
10-12 22 22 22
13-15 25 31 27
16-17 36 50 40
18-19 36 44 38
20-24 30 29 30
25-34 18 14 17
35-54 5 4 5
>=55 1 <1 1
  • Forty-seven percent of females between the ages of 16 and 19 who died in 1999 were involved in a motor vehicle crash. This compares with 36 percent of teenage male deaths (1999 is the most recent data available).
 
  DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS
  • Passenger vehicle death rates per 100,000 people in 2001 peaked at age 19 for drivers and at age 18 for passengers.
  • Slightly more than half of teenage passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2001 were drivers (54 percent), and a little less than half were passengers (44 percent).

Passenger vehicle deaths by age and seating position, 2001
Age Drivers Passengers
13 4 103
14 19 164
15 52 246
16 436 385
17 554 429
18 738 464
19 790 394
Total 2,593 2,185
  • Sixty-two percent of teenage passenger deaths in 2001 occurred in crashes in which another teenager was driving. Among people of all ages, 20 percent of passenger deaths in 2001 occurred when a teenager was driving.

GENDER DIFFERENCES

  • About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2001 were males.
  • Since 1975, teenage motor vehicle deaths have decreased more among males (43 percent) than among females (16 percent).
  • Death rates were higher in 2001 among male drivers age 16-19 than among females -- 21 per 100,000 people compared with 10 per 100,000.
  • The rate of nighttime fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled in 1995-96 by male drivers 16-19 years old was about 4 times the rate for 30-54-year-old male drivers. The corresponding comparison for females is more than 3 times the rate.
 
  ALCOHOL INVOLVEMENT
  • The percent of fatally injured drivers ages 16 and 17 who had BACs at or above 0.08 percent is down 66 percent since 1982. This age group experienced the greatest declines, compared with a 46 percent decline among drivers ages 18-20, and a 21 and 33 percent decline among drivers ages 21-30 and older than 30, respectively.
Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs >= 0.08 percent, 2001
  Driver age
16-17 18-20 21-30 >30
1982 41 57 63 43
1983 38 55 64 40
1984 33 52 61 37
1985 27 44 58 36
1986 29 47 59 35
1987 26 41 58 35
1988 26 40 59 35
1989 22 40 57 34
1990 22 41 57 35
1991 21 40 57 34
1992 18 37 54 33
1993 16 34 52 32
1994 17 32 50 30
1995 15 29 51 31
1996 17 30 50 30
1997 17 31 48 29
1998 15 30 49 28
1999 16 31 49 28
2000 16 30 48 29
2001 14 31 50 29
  • Among teenage drivers (16-19 years old), 25 percent of fatally injured male drivers and 14 percent of fatally injured female drivers in 2001 had blood alcohol concentrations at or above 0.08 percent.
Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs >= 0.08 percent, 2001
Driver age: 16-17 18-19 20-24 25-34 35-54 >=55
Males 15 30 48 48 43 15
Females 11 17 28 30 27 5
  • Male drivers (age 16-20) with blood alcohol concentrations in the 0.05-0.08 percent range are 17 times more likely than sober teenagers to be killed in single-vehicle crashes. The corresponding comparison for females is 7 times more likely. At BACs of 0.08-0.10, risks are even higher, 52 times for males, 15 times for females.1
 
  WHEN THEY DIED
  • Fifty-four percent of teenage motor vehicle deaths in 2001 occurred on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Forty-three percent of teenage motor vehicle deaths in 2001 occurred between 9 pm and 6 am.