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Directions in Highway Safety, Winter 2009 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Winter 2009 | Vol. 12 | No. 1

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Study Shows Unlicensed Teen Drivers More Prone to Fatal Crashes

A new article published in the journal Pediatrics examines the driving habits of unlicensed teen drivers and is the result of a research alliance between Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm Insurance Companies®. The article concludes that unlicensed teen drivers are over-represented in fatal crashes.

The study compared data from the 2006 National Young Driver Survey (NYDS) of more than 5,500 teens across the country with 2006 national fatality data. While the NYDS shows that about 6 percent of students in grades 9 through 11 said they drive unsupervised without a license, national fatality data reports that 20 percent of all 14- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006 did not have a license. This illustrates that unlicensed teen drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal crashes.

Teens in a car

Unlicensed drivers were found to be far more likely to engage in unsafe driving behaviors, which may lead to fatal crashes. Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston, co-scientific director of CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention and a co-author of the study, says that "Unlicensed teens are more likely to report not wearing a seat belt, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and driving without a purpose, behaviors known to be associated with fatal crashes."

The study found that unlicensed teen drivers were more likely to live in central cities or rural areas and identify themselves as African American or Hispanic. However, other factors, such as unpaid fines or registration fees, can also lead to driving without a license.

The report concludes that further research is needed to understand the barriers to licensing for teens. Researchers also note that it is especially important for parents and driver education instructions to reach out to help unlicensed teen drivers who are at high risk for unsafe driving practices.

For more information, read the press release: