Why motor vehicle death matters
More than one-third of all teen deaths in the U.S. are the result of motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, about 2,000 youth ages 16 to 19 were killed, and approximately 240,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.
In 2013, the majority (56 percent) of teen deaths among occupants of passenger vehicles were drivers. Teenage drivers have crash rates per mile driven that are almost three times that of drivers older than 20, with the highest rates for drivers ages 16 and 17. One study found that the risk of death for motor vehicle passengers, ages eight to 17, riding with a driver between the ages of 16 and 19, was more than 50 percent higher than for those riding with a driver over the age of 25. A number of factors related to lack of driving experience and maturity contribute to younger drivers having higher crash rates, including following other vehicles too closely, driving too fast, and violating traffic signs and signals. Other risk factors include the presence of other teenage passengers, and alcohol use. In 2013, 16 percent of young drivers involved in a fatal crash were without a valid operator’s license.
The same factors that lead to more motor vehicle crashes among younger drivers contribute to their higher death rates. The use of alcohol is especially dangerous. In 2013, one out of five teens involved in fatal crashes (19 percent) had been drinking. Teenagers are also less likely to wear seat belts than any other age group. The day of the week, as well as the time of day, are strongly associated with motor vehicle deaths among young drivers. In 2013, 54 percent of motor vehicle deaths among young drivers occurred Friday through Sunday, while 58 percent occurred between 6 pm and 6 am.