Obtaining a drivers license is a rite of passage for teenagers. But with the reward of being a new driver comes real risk. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, taking the lives of eight teenagers every day. This death rate is higher than for deaths related to cancer, gun violence, or drugs among the same age group. The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teenage drivers than among drivers of other ages. Over the last 10 years, teen drivers on average have represented less than 7 percent of the driving population but have accounted for more than 13 percent of drivers involved in all deadly crashes. From 2000–2009, more than 58,000 young people aged 15–20 were killed in traffic crashes. Many of these deaths were preventable.
One program that has proven very effective is a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system, which allows young, novice drivers to hone their skills before earning full driving privileges. GDL introduces them to driving in low-risk situations and then lifts restrictions and grants greater responsibility as they become more competent. The NTSB recommends that a comprehensive teen driver safety program include (1) beginner (learner’s permit) and intermediate licensing stages with mandatory holding periods, (2) limiting the hours during the day when teens can drive and limiting the number of teen passengers in the car for drivers in the intermediate stage, and (3) prohibiting the use of interactive wireless communication devices by drivers in both stages. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that those states with a strong teen driver safety program experienced 40 percent lower rates of injury crash involvement among 16-year-olds.
Many of today’s adult drivers have taken a driver education course. Although driver education has been available since the 1930s and should improve driving safety, little consensus exists on the benefits of driver education and training, what it should include, or how it should be delivered. A data-driven, research-based driver education program, in conjunction with a strong GDL system, could further reduce the tragedy of teen driver crashes.
Title: Report of Proceedings: National Transportation Safety Board Public Forum on Driver Education and Training October 28–29, 2003
NTSB Report Number: RP--05-01, adopted on 8/1/2005 [Summary | PDF Document]
Title: Highway Accident Report: Ford Explorer Sport Collision with Ford Windstar Minivan and Jeep Grand Cherokee on Interstate 95/495 Near Largo, Maryland February 1, 2002
NTSB Report Number: HAR-03-02, adopted on 6/3/2003 [Summary | PDF Document]
NTIS Report Number: PB2003-916202
For more information on the safety recommendations in these reports that address this Most Wanted List issue area, see: http://www.ntsb.gov/safetyrecs/private/QueryPage.aspx.