The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Teen-Involved Crash Deaths Spike 10%

October 12, 2016

Screen shot courtesy of NHTSA via YouTube.
Screen shot courtesy of NHTSA via YouTube.

Teen-involved crash deaths spiked 10% in 2015, with teen drivers 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than their adult counterparts, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The report also sheds light on data indicating that improvement in fatal crash rates among 18- to 20-year-old drivers was considerably less than for their 15- to 17-year-old counterparts, and that older teen drivers are involved in more fatal crashes than younger teens.

The Ford Motor Co. Fund financed the report through a grant.

The report, Mission Not Accomplished: Teen Safe Driving, the Next Chapter, calls on state highway safety offices and teen driving advocates to carefully monitor what’s happening with teen-involved vehicle fatalities while expanding their focus to address the heightened crash risk for older teens.

The 2015 fatal crash data, compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reveals the first uptick in teen-involved crash deaths since 2006. The report includes recommended steps to avoid a full reversal of the downward trend seen over the past 10 years.

“This data shows that smart programs that focus on teen driving behavior have been very successful in helping novice and younger drivers be safer on the roads, but that we still have more to do,” said Jim Graham, global manager for Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program. “We also need to make sure older teens benefit from these efforts. Our Driving Skills for Life program has trained more than 1 million new drivers in skills such as hazard recognition, vehicle handling, speed management and space management, and we encourage all drivers under 21 to participate.”

To better understand the challenges surrounding teen driving behavior, the report examined 10 years of data (encompassing 2005-2014) from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). FARS contains data on all U.S. vehicle crashes that occur on a public roadway and involve a fatality. Richard Retting, director of safety and research for Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, performed the report’s data analysis. The report was researched and written by nationally recognized teen driving expert Pam Fischer, principal of Pam Fischer Consulting.

“This report drives home the message that there is still much to do to reduce teen driver fatal crashes and the resulting deaths,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins, who oversaw development of the report. “The increase in teen driver fatal crashes is concerning and states are keeping a watchful eye to see if this is the start of a reversal in the gains we’ve made over the past decade. We need to continue to support effective public policies that address this issue and make sure that all drivers under 21 years of age have access to programs that improve teen driver safety.”

In place in all 50 states, graduated driver licensing is a three-stage licensing system that is proven to reduce teen crash risk by as much as 30%, according to GHSA. In most states, teens age out of GDL requirements at age 18.

However, “it's estimated that one in three teens are not licensed by 18,” said Fischer.  “That means that once they do obtain a driver’s license, they’re not reaping the benefits of graduated driver licensing.”

The report calls for an expansion of GDL to include all drivers younger than 21 years of age, and also provides 11 recommendations — policies and best practices — for states to implement. Suggestions address opportunities for increased training of older teen drivers, high-visibility enforcement, continued parental involvement, and safe driving programs at colleges.

States where these policies are in place or being considered include Maryland, where the Rookie Driver program requires all novice drivers — regardless of age — to complete 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind-the-wheel training.

In California, state officials and teen safe driving advocates are calling for passage of legislation that would expand that state’s GDL to include older teens. Meanwhile, advocates in Washington State are expected to unveil a teen driving legislative agenda in early 2017 that includes mandatory driver education for older teens. 

The report also discusses the impact of a high-visibility enforcement and education campaign in Mississippi, Pay Attention, Pay a Fine...Stop the Knock. This campaign uses high school and college presentations, along with advertising and media coverage, to educate and engage teens. Another example is the Texas-based U in the Driver Seat program, a teen-led expansion of the high school peer-to-peer Teens in the Driver Seat program.

Similar college-level programming is available in California, Ohio, Maryland, Iowa, and New York.

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