The majority of people killed in teen driver crashes continue to be people other than teen drivers themselves, according to an updated analysis of 10 years of crash data by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The analysis shows that about one-third of people killed in crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 17 are teen drivers themselves. Nearly two-thirds are passengers, occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.
“For every teen driver killed in a crash, almost twice as many other people die, which underscores the link between teen driver safety and the safety of everyone on the road,” said Jack Peet, Traffic Safety manager for AAA.
Nationally, between 1998 and 2007, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed 28,138 people, of whom 10,388 (36.9%) were teen drivers themselves. The remaining 17,750 (63.1%) deaths included 8,829 passengers of the teen drivers, 6,858 occupants of other vehicles operated by adult drivers, and 2,063 non-motorists and others.
A previous analysis in 2006 found that between 1995 and 2004, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers claimed the lives of 30,917 people, of whom 36.2 percent were teen drivers themselves and 63.6 percent were others.
“Young drivers face an array of potentially deadly challenges at the wheel,” said Peet. “Parents and teens need to understand the serious responsibility of driving and the risks and consequences involved.”
AAA points to the drop in both teen driver deaths and the larger drop in deaths of others during the last decade as evidence that improving teen driver safety benefits all road users.
“During the last decade, as states improved their teen licensing systems and AAA has helped parents get more involved, we have seen reductions in teen driver deaths and even larger reductions in the number of other people killed,” said Peet. “Clearly, measures put into place to save teen drivers help us all.”
AAA continues to call for comprehensive graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems that let new teen drivers gain experience under less-risky conditions. States with comprehensive GDL systems have been shown to reduce deaths among 16-year-old drivers by 38 percent. Forty-nine state GDL systems fall short of AAA guidelines.
AAA also encourages parents to play the leading role in developing their teen driver through regular dialogue, selecting a quality driving school, using a parent-teen driving agreement, extensive practice driving, and choosing a safe vehicle for their teen.