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By William Bill Hurst

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than 1 and 3 deaths in this age group.  In 2009, eight teens ages 16 to19 died everyday from motor vehicle injuries.  For every mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

In 2009, about 3,000 teens in the United States ages 15 to 19. With more than 350,000 were treated in emergency wards.  While young people account for only about 14% of the U.S. population, they account for about 30% of the total cost of motor vehicle injuries among males, and 28% of the total cost of motor vehicle injuries among females.  In 2006 the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 15 to 19 was almost 2 times that of their female counterpart.  About half the teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occur between 3:00 p.m. and midnight and 55% occur on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that crash rates for young drivers are higher largely because of their immaturity combined with driving inexperience.  Immaturity is apparent in young drivers with risky driving practices such as speeding and tailgating.  At the same time, teenagers lack experience behind the wheel which makes it difficult for them to recognize and respond to hazards.  Fatal crashes involving young drivers typically are single-vehicle crashes and often involve driver error or speeding.  They often occur when other young people are in the vehicle with the young driver.

NHTSA Automobile deathsIn an NHTSA study it is noted that 81% of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2008 were passenger vehicle occupants.  Automobile deaths are not the only vehicular fatalities.  In 2005, 326 young motorcycle operators were killed and an additional 9,000 were injured.  NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of more than 1,500 motorcyclists of all ages in 2005, and that if all motorcyclists had worn helmets an additional 728 lives could have been saved.  During that year, 32% of all motorcycle drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were fatality injured in crashes were not wearing helmets and more than 1/3rd were either unlicensed or driving with an invalid license.

It is also noted in the NHTSA 2005 study that 21% of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking alcohol.  It was found that alcohol involvement was higher among males than females.  It was also determined that drivers are less likely to use restraints when using alcohol.  In 2005, 64% of young drivers in passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes who’d been drinking were unrestrained.  Of the young drivers who’d been drinking and were killed in crashes, 74% were unrestrained.  More information on young drivers is available from the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, NPO-120, 407th Street Southwest, Washington D.C. 20590.

Teen driver car accident lawyerIn 2008, the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association reports that 81% of all teenage motor vehicle crash deaths were passenger vehicle occupants, and that 2 out of every 3 teens killed in these crashes were males.  Of the male teen drivers 37% involved in fatal crashes were speeding and 31% of the drivers who were killed had been drinking some amount of alcohol.  Statistics show that in 16 and 17 year old drivers, death rates increase with each additional passenger.   For teen crash statistics in Indiana see

There are proven methods to help teens become safer drivers.  The Center for Disease Control’s research suggests that the most comprehensive Graduated Drivers Licensing programs are associated with 38-40% in fatal and injury crashes among 16 year old drivers.

Often taking an auto accident prevention course or driving school course will allow for a discount for some car insurers.  However because statistics show that teen drivers are nine times more likely to have an accident than drivers age 30 to 59, the rates are proportionately higher.

Clearly, discounts on insurance can provide a considerable savings on the auto policy for young drivers.  Good grades and driver accident prevention courses can help reduce the premium of a young driver’s policy.  After some period of time often discounts are available if no claims or accidents occur.  The choice of the specific vehicle may also affect the insurance rate.  Highly rated vehicles such as sports cars, SUVs and luxury models will quickly increase the rates of the young driver’s insurance policy.  High performance vehicles are often capable of high speeds, require expense repair and targeted by pilferers.  To maintain reasonably priced insurance premiums young drivers should look towards modest vehicles with average values and repair costs.

Some states have enacted a special program for young drivers.  At least 32 states have addressed the problem of teenage driver crashes with a Graduated Drivers License (GDL) program.  This legislation varies in forms from state to state, but includes restrictions to help the young drivers from hazardous situations while they learn to drive, and extended supervised learning period to improve driving skills, and sanctions to help motivate young drivers to drive safely.  For example, Kentucky’s current program includes a) a 6 month learning permit level which may start at age 16; b) a restriction on driving after midnight during the permit levels; c) a 6 point limit on traffic violations till age 18 with a penalty with license suspension; d) a requirement for a 4 hour driving education class.  In addition blood alcohol concentration levels are lower for drivers under the age of 21.  To qualify to become a full GDL program under the NHTSA guidelines, Kentucky would need to include 3 additional provisions: a) a visibly distinctive intermediate level license; b) a limit on unsupervised nighttime driving; c) a requirement to be free of traffic violations for a period of time before graduating to the next level of licensure.

In Kentucky, researchers have determined that as a result of instituting these graduating licensing requirements, that there is a 31% reduction in crashes for 16 year old drivers after the program and a similar reduction in fatal crashes and injury crashes.  This reduction was due to an 83% decrease in crashes for drivers aged 16 to 16 and a half.  Unfortunately there were no decreases in the number of crashes or traffic violations passed the learner permit level.  For a discussion of Graduated License Level see the University of North Carolina Safety Research Center at

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The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has accumulated a number of publitions and resources regarding teen driver risks and accident prevention; not only identifying the factors that contribute to this, but also the psychological issues and factors that contribute.  Interventions to promote safe driving and behaviors in teens and the research that has been done in recent years is categorized at their website.

If a teen in your family has been injured or killed in a vehicular accident you should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer.  You may see a lawyer in our office for a free consultation and we do not charge unless we recover for you and your family.  www.

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