CDC Reports a Lower Number of Fatal Teen Car Crashes

April 21, 2015 by No Comments

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For years, parents have complained about the cost of having teenage drivers in the house, and for good reason. After all, this change not only means more gas money and maybe even buying another car, but also more expensive car insurance rates. Young drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 years old notoriously have some of the highest auto insurance premiums, and many are likely on their family’s plan.

However, a report recently found that the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes has significantly decreased over the course of the past decade, a fact that many might expect to change how car insurance policies are determined. But is this really good news for your car insurance rates, or further evidence of significant ethnic, cultural and economic changes in American society?According to injury prevention researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes decreased by more than half over the past 10 years, dropping from 5,724 in 2004 to 2,568 in 2013 among drivers aged 16 to 19. The study’s authors say this pattern is consistent with improving vehicle safety and an increasing number of young people receiving restricted licenses. These graduated licenses limit teen driving at night or restrict teen passengers, a fact the CDC says has reduced the overall crash rate by 20 to 40%.However, the researchers say that many factors could be causing these new statistics, and many experts seem to agree. For example, statisticians at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety pointed out that more students are waiting until after they turn 18 to start driving, a fact that might lend more maturity to everyday driving decisions. Meanwhile, others are tying the change to the recent economic troubles and the struggles of certain demographics.

The recession would have naturally taken a toll on American drivers: both adults and teens would have been less likely to take leisure trips, which are more likely to end in a crash, and many would have been unable to afford to drive at all. Additionally, as families worked to reduce their expenses, many school districts did the same by cutting free driver-education classes. However, research shows that some areas still fared worse than others.

The CDC included 42 states in their survey, excluding California, Washington, Oregon and a few others. Their data showed that the proportion of high schools students who drove ranged from 53% to around 90% by state, with the highest rates in the Midwest and Mountain regions. Population density was also lowest in these areas. Moreover, the driving rates were lower in cities, where family income, shorter travel distances and public transportation were believed to take effect. Studies have long shown that urban areas are more diverse than rural ones, which perhaps makes it unsurprising that black and Hispanic teens were less likely to report driving in the month before being surveyed than Caucasian youth.

This isn’t new information: past research has showed that twice as many black students are unlicensed as white students, a fact that increases the odds that they will reach adulthood without learning to drive. Moreover, studies have found that adults without licenses — who, once again, are more likely to be minorities — will have limited options when it comes to education, housing and employment.

Experts agree that minority communities and lower-income households may have a number of reasons they do not drive, including access to public transit, walkable neighborhoods and more. However, they say it is clear that a lower socioeconomic status is clearly linked to teen driving rates, particularly in cities. While living with a teen driver might be an expensive and nerve-wracking experience, the data is clear: if you want to help your children succeed, make teaching them to drive a priority.

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