AAA Study: Teen Driver Crashes Top Threat to Passengers, Other Drivers

January 18, 2006

The majority of people killed in teen driver crashes are people other than the teen driver themselves, according to a recent analysis of 10 years of crash data by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The new analysis shows that young novice drivers comprise slightly more than one-third of all the fatalities in crashes in which they are involved; whereas nearly two-thirds of those killed are other vehicle users and pedestrians. The AAA Clubs of Minnesota say these new data provide new urgency to its advocacy efforts to strengthen Minnesota’s graduated licensing laws (GDL).

“It’s clear from this analysis that we have to approach the issue of teen driver safety in a different way,” said Gail Weinholzer, spokesperson, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. “We need to focus on the effects teen driver crashes have on others in addition to the teen drivers themselves.”

This analysis shows that between 1995-2004, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers claimed the lives of 567 people in Minnesota, of which 212 (37.4 percent) were the teen drivers themselves. The remaining 355 (62.6 percent) included 171 passengers of the 15- to 17-year-old drivers, 155 occupants of other vehicles, and 29 non-motorists.

“The tragedy of teen driver crashes goes well beyond just the teen driver,” said Dawn Duffy, spokesperson, AAA Minneapolis. “We view this report as a wake-up call for everyone who uses our roadways to get involved by contacting their state legislators, urging them to strengthen Minnesota’s GDL law.”

While AAA says comprehensive GDL laws are the best way to increase safety for all road users, the organization also says parents play a critically important role in enforcing passenger restrictions.

“Regardless of what Minnesota law says, parents should not allow their teen to ride with other teen drivers, nor should they be allowed to transport other teens in the first year of driving,” said Weinholzer. “It’s tempting to be lured by the convenience of having other options for getting kids to and from school and practices, but the risks are just too great.”

Recognizing that parents may feel awkward about enforcing rules that other parents may not be enforcing, AAA developed a new parent discussion guide to help parents work as a team in ensuring teens gain driving experience in the safest driving environment possible during that first year. In addition, the AAA Foundation released an updated version of one of their popular educational tools for teen drivers, Driver-ZED – an interactive, risk-management DVD. For more information on this program, other teen driver safety tools and how to get involved by contacting your legislator go to

With car crashes being the leading cause of death for teenagers, AAA set an ambitious goal in 1997 to pass GDL laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (the Minnesota law was enacted on Jan. 1, 1999). This nationwide goal was finally achieved with both Wyoming and Montana enacting laws in 2005. These legislative efforts have helped save lives by requiring teens to get more supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience and phased-in driving privileges during low-risk times until a full license is granted. However, not all GDL laws are comprehensive. In Minnesota, the AAA Clubs of Minnesota now are focused on strengthening our GDL law by adding passenger and nighttime restrictions.

The teen driver crash data analysis was conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The Foundation analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1995 through 2004, identifying and describing all fatal crashes involving 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old drivers of passenger vehicles.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.