Fatal Crash Rates for Young Drivers Decrease Significantly, Surpassing Older Drivers
A new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) brings positive news for road safety, specifically concerning young drivers. The study reveals a substantial improvement in crash and fatality rates for drivers under 21 over the past two decades, surpassing the progress made by older drivers.
The report, titled Young Drivers and Traffic Fatalities: 20 Years of Progress on the Road to Zero, analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the period of 2002-2021. It also puts forth effective strategies to maintain the decline in crash numbers.
One of the most significant findings is that fatal crashes per 10,000 licensed drivers have dropped by 34% for drivers under 21, compared to a 12% decrease for drivers aged 21 and older. This indicates a substantial reduction in the risk young drivers pose on the road.
The report also includes a state-by-state analysis, showcasing varying changes in crash and fatality rates for young drivers across the United States. With the exception of three states and the District of Columbia, all other states have witnessed an improvement in the young driver crash fatality rate.
Pam Shadel Fischer, GHSA Senior Director of External Engagement and the report’s author, shared her insights on the statistics. Fischer noted that young drivers present a higher risk due to their immaturity and lack of experience. The brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex responsible for risk assessment and decision-making, continues developing until the early to mid-twenties. Consequently, many young drivers lack the necessary experience to identify risks and take preventive measures to avoid accidents.
These concerning statistics highlight the impact on the safety of all road users. Fischer emphasized that in 2021, 63% of the individuals killed in crashes involving young drivers were not the drivers themselves, but rather their passengers, occupants of other vehicles, or pedestrians and bicyclists.
To continue building upon these positive trends, the report outlines five proven policies and programs that have contributed to the improved safety of teenage drivers. The GHSA recommends further development and implementation of these countermeasures while proposing an additional sixth measure.
GHSA intends to host a webinar later in the month to delve into the data findings, explore the reasons behind the decline in fatal crash rates for teenagers, and discuss the future course of action. Joining Fischer in this important conversation will be Mike Speck, Lead Instructor of the DSFL program, who will shed light on the evolution of educational efforts for teen drivers and parents/guardians. The webinar is scheduled for October 31st at 2 p.m. ET, and registration is available on the GHSA website.
This encouraging report signifies a noteworthy decrease in the fatal crash rates of young drivers, surpassing the progress achieved by older drivers. By building upon proven strategies and fostering education and awareness, road safety can continue to improve for all age groups.