Teen motor vehicle crashes can be prevented, and statistics indicate that the annual number of drivers aged 16 or 17 years involved in fatal crashes decreased 36 percent from 2004 to 2008 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2010). While this is promising, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among teens; per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a crash (CDC, 2009).
Many factors influence teens' crash risk and likelihood for injury or death. These include driving ability, developmental factors, behavioral factors, personality factors, demographics, the perceived environment, and the driving environment (Shope & Bingham, 2008). For example, due to inexperience, teen drivers are more likely to take unnecessary risks including driving without a seatbelt, driving while distracted (e.g., texting, eating), and speeding. Situational factors such as driving at night, driving under the influence, and driving with other teenage passengers also place teens at higher risk (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2008). Prevention efforts to minimize the risk of deaths, injuries, and crashes related to teen driving need to be comprehensive and take into account the complex factors that influence driving. Some, including stronger seat belt laws and graduated driver licensing (GDL), have shown evidence of improving teen driver safety.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2009). Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system (WISQARS). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2010). Drivers Aged 16 or 17 Years Involved in Fatal Crashes—United States, 2004–2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 59(41), 1329-1334. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5941a2.htm?s_cid=mm5941a2_e
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Office of Behavioral Safety Research. (2008). Teen driver crashes: A report to Congress. Washington, DC: Compton, R. P., & Ellison-Potter, P.
Shope, J. T., & Bingham, C. R. (2008).Teen driving: Motor-vehicle crashes and factors that contribute. American Journal of Prevention Medicine, 35(3S, S261-S271).
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Nearly two out of three crash deaths involving 16-year-old drivers happen when the driver has one or more teen passengers.