Safety Issue: Youth Highway Safety

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds. In 2000, 3,594 drivers 15 to 20 years old were killed, and an additional 348,000 were injured, in motor vehicle crashes. While traffic crashes account for approximately 2 percent of all deaths, they account for 36 percent of all deaths among 15 to 20 year olds. In 1998, teen drivers constituted only 6.9 percent of licensed drivers, but were involved in 14.4 percent of all highway fatalities.

About 20 percent of teen driving occurred at night, but about 50 percent of teen fatalities (those occurring with a teenager at the wheel) occurred during the hours of darkness. In the decade of the 1990’s, 63,000 children aged 15-20 died in traffic crashes, more than 120 each week. In 2000, 21 percent of fatally injured drivers aged 15-19 were intoxicated (blood alcohol concentration [BAC] greater than 0.10 percent). Another 8 percent had a BAC of 0.01 to 0.09 percent. Teenage drivers with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.10 percent are far more likely to be killed in single vehicle crashes—18 times more likely for males and 54 times more likely for females.

Safety Recommendations

H-93-1 (The States)
Issued March 11, 1993
Status: Various
Review your drinking age (age 21) laws to determine if they prohibit persons under the age of 21 from attempting to purchase, purchasing, publicly possessing, or consuming alcoholic beverages and prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 21. Enact laws to include these provisions and to eliminate deficiencies that may exist. (Source: Letter of Recommendation in 1993 Addressing the Licensing of Young Drivers, the High Incidence of Young Drivers in Fatal Highway Crashes, and the Need for Better “Age 21” Laws)

H-93-2 (The States)
Issued March 11, 1993
Status: Various

Vigorously enforce the minimum drinking age laws to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of alcohol purchase by underage persons. (Source: Letter of Recommendation in 1993 Addressing the Licensing of Young Drivers, the High Incidence of Young Drivers in Fatal Highway Crashes, and the Need for Better “Age 21” Laws)

H-93-3 (The States)
Issued March 11, 1993
Status: Various
Vigorously enforce youth drinking and driving laws to increase the percentage of alcohol-impaired young drivers who are arrested. (Source: Letter of Recommendation in 1993 Addressing the Licensing of Young Drivers, the High Incidence of Young Drivers in Fatal Highway Crashes, and the Need for Better “Age 21” Laws)

H-93-4 (The States)
Issued March 11, 1993
Status: Various
Vigorously enforce the minimum drinking age laws by taking driver license action against underage purchasers and vendor license action against those who sell to persons under the minimum purchase age. (Source: Letter of Recommendation in 1993 Addressing the Licensing of Young Drivers, the High Incidence of Young Drivers in Fatal Highway Crashes, and the Need for Better “Age 21” Laws)

H-93-8 (The States)
Issued March 11, 1993
Status: Various
Enact laws to provide for a provisional license system for young novice drivers. (Source: Letter of Recommendation in 1993 Addressing the Licensing of Young Drivers, the High Incidence of Young Drivers in Fatal Highway Crashes, and the Need for Better “Age 21” Laws)

H-93-9 (The States)
Issued March 11, 1993
Status: Various
Enact laws that prohibit driving by young novice drivers between certain times, especially midnight to 5 a.m. (Source: Letter of Recommendation in 1993 Addressing the Licensing of Young Drivers, the High Incidence of Young Drivers in Fatal Highway Crashes, and the Need for Better “Age 21” Laws)

Summary of Action

Underage Drinking and Driving
Significant progress has been made since 1993, when the Board recommended that to reduce the incidence of drinking and driving by drivers under age 21, states review their minimum drinking age laws to reduce underage alcohol purchase.

At that time, 6 states had comprehensive age 21 laws; now 21 states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive age 21 laws.

22 states have minimum drinking age laws containing all 7 recommended elements.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia now prohibit alcohol sale and public possession by persons under age 21.

45 states and the District of Columbia now prohibit underage purchase.

34 states and the District of Columbia now bar underage consumption.

37 states and the District of Columbia now prohibit the underage attempt to purchase alcohol.

38 states and the District of Columbia now bar an underage person from misrepresenting his or her age to purchase alcohol, and  47 states and the District of Columbia now prohibit the use of fraudulent or false identification to purchase alcohol.

Enforcement of age 21 laws has received additional support as one of the provisions of TEA-21. As a result, states have been improving underage alcohol enforcement through the use of “compliance checks” (stings), enforcement assistance to alcohol vendors (“Cops in Shops”), underage purchaser driver license suspension, and vendor license suspension for illegal alcohol sales.

Graduated Licensing
The states have greatly changed their driver licensing practices since the Safety Board adopted its graduated driver licensing recommendations in 1993. The changes represent the most significant alteration of young driver licensing practices in over 50 years.

32 states and the District of Columbia have adopted comprehensive systems that include a three-stage graduated licensing system with a minimum holding period for the learner’s permit, and a nighttime driving restriction during the intermediate phase.

14 states have enacted partial systems that include either a minimum holding period or a nighttime driving restriction, and only 4 states lack any part of a graduated licensing system. Virtually all of these have been enacted since 1993.

Three jurisdictions (Texas, Nevada, Virginia) enacted either full or partial graduated licensing systems in 2001. The new comprehensive law in Texas should result in a substantial number of lives saved, since more than 800 persons are killed each year in Texas in crashes involving 15-20 year old drivers.

In 2002 to date, new or improved graduated licensing requirements have been proposed in at least 13 states. South Carolina has enacted improvements to its system including a supervised driving requirement and passenger restriction.

Nighttime driving restrictions generally have been the most controversial element of the graduated licensing proposals.

Restrictions are being used in 34 states plus the District of Columbia. The driving restrictions generally start at 11 p.m. or midnight (21 states), but starting times range from “sunset” to 1 a.m.

Research from North Carolina indicates that an earlier start time is more effective in reducing young driver nighttime crashes. The restrictions typically end at 5 or 6 a.m.

Graduated licensing laws work. Research published in October 2001 from two states with comprehensive laws that include both an extended learners’ permit phase and a nighttime driving restriction – Michigan and North Carolina – reaffirms the effectiveness of graduated licensing. In Michigan, research shows that 16 year olds were 25 percent less likely to get into a crash; in North Carolina, the risk of a crash dropped by 23 percent. Further, in North Carolina, nighttime crashes involving 16 year olds declined by 43 percent and fatal crashes dropped by 57 percent.

Action(s) Remaining
15 states lack 1 element of a comprehensive underage drinking law.
9 states lack two elements of a comprehensive underage drinking law.
5 states lack three elements of a comprehensive underage drinking law.
14 states lack 2 or 3 provisions.
Four states have no graduated drivers license.

National Transportation Safety Board http://www.ntsb.gov/

 

Carloads of Trouble

NTSB Wants to Limit the Number Passengers Teen Drivers Can Carry

Adult drivers may have few problems focusing on the road with passengers in the vehicle, but for teenage drivers, passengers can prove a deadly distraction, with each additional passenger increasing the risk of a crash, studies show

A teen driver driving by himself or herself is twice as likely to have a fatal collision as an adult,” said Carol Carmody, the acting chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “A teen driver with teen passengers is five times as likely.”

Teenage drivers make up about 7 percent of all drivers, but are involved in nearly 14 percent of all accidents.

The NTSB is urging states to change teen driving laws to try to lower the toll.

Today, the NTSB recommended that states bar new drivers from carrying more than one passenger under age 20. The board also suggested that only those age 21 or older supervise new drivers.

According to the NTSB, only seven states have what they consider to be these “tough restrictions.” In California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin, new drivers may not be accompanied by more than one passenger for at least six months after receiving their licenses.

States with the restrictions have seen injuries and fatalities in crashes involving teen drivers drop by as much as 30 percent.

‘A Recipe for Disaster’

Dave Greening helped pass the Wisconsin law. His 15-year-old son, Kris, was killed while riding in a car with his high school cross-country running teammates. The driver of the vehicle, who had less than one year of experience on the road, reportedly reached speeds of 120 miles per hour before he lost control of the car, which cartwheeled over some trees. Greening was the only person killed in the accident.

“There seems to be in the age group, one, a lot of inexperience behind the wheel, and two, a certain feeling of invincibility among kids,” said Greening. “Putting other teen passengers in a car with a novice driver is a recipe for disaster.”

Many teenagers dislike the recommended restrictions, which in essence would keep them away from their friends while driving a car.

“If I was easily distracted, I would be distracted by them [passengers],” said 17-year-old driver Eliza Meltzer of Washington, D.C. “I’m able to focus when I’m driving and I think most people are.”

Parents Want Kids to Take Over the Chauffeur Duties

It’s not just teenagers who oppose these laws. Lawmakers say opposition also comes from those responsible for the teens.

“The biggest problem is the parents, the parents who can’t wait to have their kids take over the carpool,” said Illinois state Sen. John Cullerton.

Cullerton, who has authored a number of traffic-safety laws, says it’s also a challenge to overcome lawmakers who oppose any kind of restrictions such as seat-belt laws or helmet laws. “You have a certain number of legislators who are just going to vote no all the time.”

The NTSB hopes its recommendations will pressure states to change their laws. The problem is only likely to get worse. From 1993 to 2010, the number of young novice drivers will increase by a predicted 23 percent.

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