Teen Drivers

Access to Alcohol

Teens are at far greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash than the overall population, despite the fact that they are below the minimum drinking age in every State. Among 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006, 31 percent of the drivers who were killed had been drinking and 77 percent of these drivers were unrestrained. High-visibility enforcement of underage purchase, possession, and provision laws can create a significant deterrent for violation of youth access laws, reduce consumption, and decrease alcohol-related crash involvement.


  • Actions directed at adults, such as media messages on parent and other adult responsibility, keg registration laws, and enforcement of laws against purchasing alcohol for youth;
  • Actions directed at youth, such as tamper-proof licenses, "use-and-lose" laws that confiscate the drivers license of underage drinkers, law enforcement party patrols, and peer education;
  • Actions directed at alcohol vendors (e.g., point-of-sale training and compliance checks); and
  • Comprehensive community programs that bring together community groups and agencies.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

Young, novice drivers are significantly overrepresented in fatal crashes, particularly 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Immaturity and inexperience are primary factors contributing to fatal crashes by young drivers. Three-stage GDL laws address these factors by reducing high-risk exposure for novice drivers. Evaluations clearly show the benefits of adopting GDL laws, generally indicating 20- to 50-percent reductions in crashes of young novice drivers.

  • Enactment of three-stage GDL legislation containing NHTSA -rec- ommended components;
  • Highly publicized enforcement of GDL laws; and
  • Increasing parental responsibility in monitoring novice driver compliance with GDL laws.

Seat Belt Use

  • Primary enforcement seat belt laws;
  • Highly publicized enforcement of seat belt laws; and
  • Educational programs that complement seat belt laws and enforcement.

Youth Traffic Safety Statistics

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.
  • Each year, more than 5,000 teens (ages 16-20) are killed inpassenger vehicle crashes.
  • During 2006, a teen died in a traffic crash an average of once every hour on weekends and nearly once every two hours during the week.
  • Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes

  • Nationally in 2006, 25 percent of the young drivers ages 15-20 who were killed in crashes had Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of .08 or higher at the time of the crash.
  • Nationally in 2006, 4,842 teen passenger vehicle occupants, ages 16 to 20, were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and 58 percent (2,813) were unrestrained at the time of the fatal crash.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teenage drivers and passengers are among those least likely to wear their seat belts.
  • While all teens are at a high-risk of experiencing a fatal crash, according to NHTSA, young males, pickup truck drivers and passengers, as well as people living in rural areas are also among those least likely to buckle up.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
The BAC is measured as a percentage by weight of alcohol in the blood (grams/deciliter). A positive BAC level (.01 g/dL and higher) indicates that alcohol was consumed by the person tested; a BAC level of .01 to .07 g/dL indicates that the person was impaired; a BAC level of .08 g/dL or more indicates that the person was intoxicated.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)
A system designed to phase in young beginning drivers to full driving privileges as they become more mature and develop their driving skills.

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