Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content
CDC Home

Involvement by Young Drivers in Fatal Motor-Vehicle Crashes -- United States, 1988-1995

Motor-vehicle crashes (MVCs) are the leading cause of death for persons aged 15-20 years in the United States (1). Although the 11.9 million young drivers aged 15-20 years constituted only 6.7% of the total number of licensed drivers in the United States during 1995, they represented a disproportionate 14% of all drivers involved in fatal MVCs. In addition, adjusting for the number of miles driven, rates of fatal crashes were higher for young drivers than for drivers in any other age group (e.g., the rate for 16-year-olds was 18 times that for persons aged 30-34 years) (2). This report summarizes trends in involvement in fatal MVCs by drivers aged 15-20 years during 1988-1995; these findings document an overall decline in involvement by young drivers in fatal crashes in the United States.

This analysis used data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A driver was defined as an operator of a moving motor vehicle. A fatal MVC was a crash in which at least one person, who may or may not have been the driver, died. An alcohol-involved crash was one in which the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than or equal to 0.01 g/dL. NHTSA uses statistical models to estimate BACs for drivers and pedestrians where BAC results are not available (3). Nighttime crashes were crashes that occurred from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Protective device use was defined as use of a safety belt or a motorcycle helmet.

During 1988-1995, a total of 68,206 fatal crashes involved young drivers (Table_1). Of these, 50,744 (74.4%) of the young drivers were male; 18,599 (27.3%) had BACs greater than or equal to 0.01 g/dL, including 12,048 (64.8%) who had BACs greater than or equal to 0.1 g/dL (i.e., legally intoxicated in most states). Overall, 27,144 (39.8%) of these crashes occurred during nighttime hours, and 36,655 (53.7%) young drivers were not using protective devices at the time of the crash. The proportion of fatal nighttime crashes and the proportion of alcohol-involved crashes increased with driver age. Drivers aged 15-17 years were less likely to be involved in fatal crashes at night and less likely to have BACs greater than or equal to 0.01 g/dL than were drivers aged 18-20 years. Rates of fatal crashes were highest for persons aged 18-20 years and lowest for those aged 15 years (Table_1). Drivers aged 15 years were less likely to be using protective devices when involved in a fatal crash than were young drivers of other ages.

During 1988-1995, involvement by young drivers in fatal alcohol-involved crashes and crashes in which the driver was not using protective devices declined for each age. Involvement in nighttime fatal crashes declined for young persons of all ages, except those aged 15 years, from 1994 to 1995.

Reported by: Div of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: The findings in this report document an overall decline in involvement by young drivers in fatal crashes in the United States during 1988-1995. However, because this analysis examined only fatal crashes, the findings do not indicate the total level of involvement by young drivers in MVCs. In 1995, approximately 2 million nonfatal MVCs involved drivers aged less than or equal to 20 years (4).

Despite the decline in fatal MVCs, rates for fatal crash involvement continue to be highest among young drivers when adjusted for the number of miles driven. Factors associated with MVCs among young drivers include risk-taking behavior and lack of driving experience (5). Specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of involvement by a young driver in an MVC include alcohol use, low use of protective devices, and driving at night. For drivers aged 18-20 years, the increasing number of miles driven and increasing access to alcohol also increase their risk for an MVC (2,6).

NHTSA has recommended that states implement and enforce graduated driver licensing systems (GDLSs) to reduce the involvement of young drivers in MVCs (7). The GDLS is a public health intervention that enables young drivers to acquire driving experience in low-risk settings and exposes beginning drivers incrementally to more challenging driving experiences (see box Table_B1). Although the GDLS has reduced crashes 5%-16% for young drivers in the United States (7), most states have implemented only parts of the recommended GDLS. Ten states (California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) have a three-stage licensing system that includes many of the recommended components of the GDLS; four states (Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont) have two stages of licensing that include several of the recommended components (8). In September 1996, the Michigan state legislature enacted the first complete GDLS, which will become operational in April 1997.

In the absence of state legislation, parents can implement their own form of graduated licensing. For example, parents can require that their children always wear safety belts, that for an appropriate length of time they drive only with an adult present, that they conform to parental rules regarding passengers, and that they drive only during daylight hours.

The findings in this report can be used by states and other agencies in planning and evaluating interventions to decrease MVCs involving young drivers. In addition, these findings can assist in measuring progress toward the national health objectives for the year 2000 (9), which include increasing the use of safety belts and helmets (objectives 9.12 and 9.14), decreasing alcohol-involved MVCs (objective 9.23), and increasing to 35 the number of states having a GDLS for drivers and riders aged less than 18 years (objective 9.26).

References

  1. Singh GK, Mathews TJ, Clarke SC, Yannicos T, Smith BL. Annual summary of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths: United States, 1994. Hyattsville, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, 1995 (Monthly vital statistics report; vol 43, no. 13).

  2. Cerrelli EC. Research note: crash data and rates for age-sex groups of drivers, 1994. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1995.

  3. Klein TM. A method of estimating posterior BAC distributions for persons involved in fatal traffic accidents: final report. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1986; report no. DOT-HS-807-094.

  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic safety facts, 1995: a compilation of motor vehicle crash data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System and the General Estimates System. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1996; report no. DOT-HS-808-471.

  5. Shope JT, Waller PF, Lang SW. Correlates of high-risk driving behavior among high school seniors by gender. In: 40th Annual proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, 1996. Des Plaines, Illinois: Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, 1996.

  6. Preusser DF, Williams AF. Sales of alcohol to underage purchasers in three New York counties and Washington, DC. J Public Health Policy 1992;13:306-17.

  7. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Graduated driver licensing system for young novice drivers. Guidelines for motor vehicle administrators. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1996; report no. DOT-HS-808-331.

  8. Williams AF, Weinberg K, Fields M, Ferguson SA. Current requirements for getting a driver's license in the United States. Arlington, Virginia: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1995.

  9. Public Health Service. Healthy people 2000: midcourse review and 1995 revisions. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1995.



Table_1
Note: To print large tables and graphs users may have to change their printer settings to landscape and use a small font size.

TABLE 1. Number and rate * of young drivers involved in fatal + motor-vehicle crashes, by age of driver and year -- United
States, 1988-1995
==================================================================================================================================================================
                  1988             1989            1990             1991            1992            1993             1994             1995            Total
Age group     -------------    ------------    -------------    ------------    ------------    -------------    ------------    --------------   --------------
(yrs)            No.   Rate      No.   Rate      No.    Rate      No.   Rate      No.   Rate      No.    Rate      No.   Rate      No.   Rate &      No.    Rate
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
15               244    7.3      229    7.0      231     6.9      218    6.6      211    6.1      228     6.5      245    6.8      255     6.7     1,861     6.8
16             1,300   36.7    1,242   37.0    1,116    34.0    1,088   32.4    1,044   31.5    1,109    31.9    1,162   33.0    1,315    36.2     9,376    34.1
17             1,928   49.2    1,663   45.9    1,535    44.7    1,344   40.0    1,389   40.3    1,317    38.7    1,503   42.2    1,427    39.6    12,106    42.7
18             2,376   60.2    2,217   57.1    2,022    56.2    1,777   52.6    1,585   47.9    1,637    48.2    1,666   51.7    1,740    49.6    15,020    53.0
19             2,320   57.9    2,310   57.5    2,183    53.3    1,900   50.0    1,553   43.4    1,662    47.4    1,733   48.3    1,626    45.9    15,287    50.7
20             2,247   59.2    2,010   51.6    1,965    48.6    1,893   46.7    1,621   42.9    1,531    43.0    1,659   47.6    1,630    45.7    14,556    48.2
Total         10,415   46.2    9,671   43.9    9,052    41.5    8,220   38.7    7,403   35.5    7,484    35.9    7,968   37.8    7,993    36.9    68,206    39.6
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Per 100,000 age-specific population.
+ The driver may or may not have been killed in the crash.
& Numbers based on 1995 intercensal estimates.
==================================================================================================================================================================
@ Numbers based on 1995 intercensal estimates.
=================================================================================================================================================================

Return to top.

Table_B1
Note: To print large tables and graphs users may have to change their printer settings to landscape and use a small font size.

Selected Components of the Graduated Driver Licensing System
Recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
=============================================================================================
Level          Restrictions                                    Requirements
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Learner's      - Zero alcohol tolerance                        Must remain crash- and
               - Driver must be supervised at all              conviction-free for at least
                 times by a parent, guardian,                  6 consecutive months
                 or person aged >=21 years who is a
                 licensed driver
               - All vehicle occupants must wear
                 safety belts
               - Driver limited regarding speed,
                 type of road, and number of
                passengers

Intermediate   - Zero alcohol tolerance                        Must remain crash- and
               - Cannot drive during restricted                conviction-free for at least
                 hours (e.g., 10 p.m.-5 a.m.) unless           12 consecutive months
                 supervised by a parent, guardian,
                 or person aged >=21 years who is a
                 licensed driver
               - All vehicle occupants must wear safety belts

Unrestricted   - Zero alcohol tolerance at age <21 years 

Return to top.


Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

References to non-CDC sites on the Internet are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. URL addresses listed in MMWR were current as of the date of publication.


All MMWR HTML versions of articles are electronic conversions from typeset documents. This conversion might result in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users are referred to the electronic PDF version (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr) and/or the original MMWR paper copy for printable versions of official text, figures, and tables. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9371; telephone: (202) 512-1800. Contact GPO for current prices.

**Questions or messages regarding errors in formatting should be addressed to mmwrq@cdc.gov.

 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #