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Traffic Safety and Youth: Teens and Young Adults

How big is the problem?

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for youth and young adults, accounting for about 29 percent of all deaths between 15-24 years of age, based on 1991 multiple cause of death data.

Youths between 16 and 20 years of age are killed in traffic crashes at about twice the rate of the general population.

Males of this age group are killed at more than twice the rate of females.

Over 500,000 youth, 16 to 20 years, were injured in traffic crashes in 1994. Over 5,000 were killed.

What types of crashes are they involved in?

The great majority (94 percent) of youth (16 to 20 years) traffic deaths occur to vehicle occupants. Pedestrian fatalities account for about five percent, bicyclists over one percent.

Most youth traffic injuries (over 96 percent) also occur to vehicle occupants. About two percent occur to pedestrians, and over one percent to bicyclists.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of youth (16 to 20 years) killed in motor vehicles during 1994 were drivers. Over one-third were passengers.

Almost 39 percent of youth (16 to 20 years) traffic fatalities in 1994 occurred in alcohol-related crashes.

What are the most effective solutions?

Increasing safety belt use, decreasing speed, and decreasing alcohol involvement will have the greatest effect on youth traffic fatalities.

  • About three-quarters of youth (16 to 20 years) passenger vehicle occupant fatalities (of known restraint use) in 1994 were unrestrained. If these youth had been wearing safety belts, about 45 percent of unrestrained fatalities, or over 1,400 in passenger vehicles, would have been saved.

  • Front seat lap and shoulder belts are about 45 percent effective in preventing occupant fatalities.

  • Safety belt use among youth passenger vehicle occupants with known restraint use was much lower in alcohol-related crashes than in crashes where alcohol was not involved. Only 21 percent of youth (16 to 20 years) drivers and 16 percent of youth passengers who were killed in alcohol-related crashes were buckled up.

  • Speed is a contributing factor in a large number of youth traffic fatalities. In 1994, approximately 45 percent of all young driver fatalities (16 to 20 years) were speed-related. Over 49 percent of the young males were speeding, as were about 33 percent of the females.

    Click HERE to go to the NHTSA websiteThe information on this page was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

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