In the last decade, teen motor vehicle deaths dropped by nearly half. The rates remain too high, but further reductions are possible.
Even though motor vehicle-related deaths among 13-to-19-year-olds fell from 5,300 to 2,524 since 2005, that’s still 2,524 too many. The fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16-to-19-year-olds stands out – it is nearly three times that of drivers 20 and older. And the rates at ages 16 and 17 are nearly twice the fatal crash rate per mile driven of older teens ages 18 and 19.
Young people 15-24 years old represent 14 percent of the U.S. population but account for 30 percent ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males, and 28 percent ($7 billion) of the total costs among females.
Why are these rates higher?
Seat belt use by teen drivers, and especially passengers, is lower than for adults. Of teens aged 13-to-19 who died in car crashes in 2013, 49 percent of drivers and 61 percent of passengers were not wearing a seat belt.
Speeding still contributes to more than one-third of the fatal crashes involving 16 and 17-year-olds -- more than twice the rate of older drivers. If there are multiple passengers in the car, speeding is a factor in more than 50 percent of fatal crashes for this group.
Although nighttime crashes and crashes in which teen drivers are carrying young passengers have been reduced, many teen crashes still occur during nighttime hours.
And there is still a big bulge in crashes in the first few months of licensure.
But the recent drop in teen car crash deaths is encouraging. Likely reasons for this include economic factors, the effects of delayed licensure, and, most significantly, the success of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs.
The core features of GDL are a lengthy learner period with extensive supervised practice driving, restrictions on cellphone use, nighttime driving and carrying young passengers. GDL programs have proven effective at reducing teen drivers' high crash rates ranging from 20 to 40 percent.
The truth is, strengthening GDL programs in many states could further reduce teen crash rates. According to research by The Allstate Foundation released in 2013, if all states implemented comprehensive graduated driver licensing laws, an estimated 2,000 lives and $13.6 billion could be saved per year.