(Click here for entire study.)
The last three months of the year can be treacherous for all drivers, but young drivers (aged 16-20) are involved in considerably more crashes during that time than the rest of the year. During the past five years in Alabama young drivers have been involved in about 22 percent of crashes, despite their accounting for a bit less than 7 percent of all drivers. Young drivers are also reported to cause more than 16 percent of all vehicle crashes, which is more than twice expected considering their number.
Over the past five years, young drivers have been involved in an average of 79 crashes a day, out of a total 355 crashes per day (on average). During the last three months this number jumps to 84 crashes per day on average. Traffic safety professional generally conclude that 16-20 is the most vulnerable age group due to a combination of inexperience and a willingness to take risks.
Daily crash data from 2010-2014 were added together and then grouped into six day chunks to see which of these had significantly more crashes than average. The six-day time frame tended to average various weather and outliers to smooth the data results, giving a clearer picture of which times of the year have more crashes than average. Exact ‘worst day of the year’ specifications are not very useful because one of the most critical factors in crash frequency is the day of the week. Fridays are generally the worst day, so the same date falls on a different day-of-the-week every year. Giving one date would not be a good way to forecast problem times.
The display below summarizes the results of the study. The green line indicates the ideal days to drive since young driver crashes are below normal. Yellow indicates slightly above, while the orange and red get progressively worse. Those days with a number are dates for which the total young driver crashes averaged over 100 per day.
Only 19 days out the 92 days in the last quarter of the year have days with less-than-average days for crashes involving young drivers. It is clear that October, November and December are collectively the worst sequences of three month over-involvement. Young drivers are not alone in this over-representation, since it was found that drivers of all ages have more crashes than average in November and December.
The worst two-week period for young drivers is the 12 days from Dec. 13 to Christmas Eve on Dec. 24.
The explanation for this probably has to do with the young drivers adding to an already high mix of people doing unusual things at this time – excess shopping, visiting, and general pre-holiday celebrations often out of their normal driving areas. While this time period is over-represented in general, but it is particularly problematic for young drivers.
The spring months, March through May, have more than average crashes for young people, and especially the first half of April should be avoided if at all possible. This is probably attributed to spring breaks that span this time frame starting at the end of March going right through the middle of April. During the rest of the year, January, February and the summer months of June, July and August are the months with the fewest crashes involving young drivers, and thus, the best times for them to be out driving.
This study employed the Critical Analysis Reporting Environment (CARE), a software analysis system developed by the University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS) to automatically mine information from existing databases. Crash records for the study were provided by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).