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Traffic safety for young drivers in the United States has improved over the past several years. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that crash-related deaths among 16- to 19-year-olds decreased every year between 2002 and 2008 (2009a). In 2008, there were 17 percent fewer deaths from motor vehicle or motorcycle crashes (4,153) than in 2007 (5,017). Despite the declines, the statistics related to driving fatalities, injuries, and involvement in crashes for youth remain staggering.

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, accounting for approximately one-third of all teenage deaths (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010).
  • The number of people killed in passenger vehicle crashes is higher for youth ages 16 to 20 than all other age groups (NHTSA, 2010). See figure.

Fatalities Chart

Source: NHTSA, 2010

  • 3,653 youth between the ages of 16 and 20 died in motor vehicle or motorcycle crashes in 2009.  Of those killed, 2,295 were driving and 1,358 were passengers (NHTSA, 2009a).
  • Twelve percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2008 were young drivers between 15 and 20 years old, and 14 percent of all drivers involved in police-reported crashes were young drivers (NHTSA, 2009b).
  • Sixty-three percent of teens killed while a passenger in a car during 2008 were in a car driven by another teenager and 19 percent of all passengers (any age) were killed when a teen was driving (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2009).
  • The cost of crash-related fatal and non-fatal injuries to motor vehicle occupants ages 15 to 19 is estimated to be $13.6 billion for medical care and lost work costs (Naumann, Dellinger, Zaloshnja, Lawrence, & Miller, 2010).


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

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (2009). Fatality facts: Teenagers 2008. Arlington (VA): The Institute. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/research/fatality_facts_2008/teenagers.html

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2009a). Motor vehicle occupant and motorcyclist fatalities by age group, 1994–2008. Fatality analysis reporting system (FARS). Retrieved from http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Trends/TrendsOccupants.aspx

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2009b). Traffic safety facts: 2008 data. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811162.pdf (PDF, 12 pages)

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2010). Teen drivers: Additional resources. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Teen+Drivers/Teen+Drivers+Education/Teen+Drivers+-+Additional+Resources

Naumann, R. B., Dellinger, A. M., Zaloshnja, E., Lawrence, B. A., & Miller, T.R. (2010) Incidence and total lifetime costs of motor vehicle-related fatal and nonfatal injury by road user type, United States, 2005, Traffic Injury Prevention, 11(4), 353-360.


Parents Are the Key to Safe Teen Drivers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Parents Are the Key campaign provides resources and information for parents about teen driving and what they can do to help their teen become a safe driver.

Protect the Ones You Love: Child Injuries Are Preventable – Road Traffic Injuries

This CDC initiative was developed to raise parents' awareness about the leading causes of child injury in the United States and how they can be prevented.

Teen Drivers (CDC)

This CDC website provides fact sheets, research and activities, and blogs related to teen driver safety.

Teen Drivers (DOT/NHTSA)

This U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website provides information, talking points, media tools, collateral materials, and various other marketing materials regarding a comprehensive approach to teen driver safety.

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