Unifying Alabama's Traffic Safety Efforts
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Young Driver Issues

A message to young drivers. This is an exciting time of your lives -- you have so much to look forward to. We know that the very last thing you want to do is to ruin it all by getting hurt or hurting someone else in a car crash. Nevertheless, young drivers (ages 16-20) caused over 15,500 crashes in just one year (2009) in Alabama. That is on average about a crash every 15 minutes during normal driving hours.

In 2009 these crashes resulted in 63 deaths and injured almost 4500. But these numbers are meaningless if they do not get you to realize that it can, and almost certainly will happen to you if you do not do something now to establish some basic habits to prevent it.
Summary of Graduated Driver License Law
Click Here to Read the Summary

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Oregon State University - "Distracted Driving" at an all-time high
Oregon State University has participated in a study of 3,000 teens studying distracted driving. Based on recent studies, anything that takes your attention away, any glance away from the road for two seconds or longer can increase the risk of an accident from four to 24 times

Click Here to Read More

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AAA Foundation: Driver Training Module to Accelerate Driver Perceptual Expertise
Training module intended to accelerate the process of perceptual expertise for young, novice drivers.  This module deploys advanced learning technologies to help teen drivers learn more quickly, and is based on previously successful learning applications.

Click Here to Read More

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Teen Driver Safety: Always a Priority

USDOT Transportation.gov: NTHSA’s ‘5 to Drive’ campaign highlights five important rules all teen drivers should follow before getting behind the wheel. 

Rule 1: No Cell Phones: Texting especially poses threats for teen drivers because they choose to take their eyes off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel. Texting simultaneously involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction and is among the worst of all driver distractions.

Rule 2: No Extra Passengers:  Most teens are susceptible to peer pressure, which can lead to risk-taking.  In a study analyzed by NHTSA, teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one of more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer compared to when driving alone.

Rule 3: No Speeding:  Speeding is an important factor of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes. Talk to your teen about the dangers of speeding and of not staying in control of the vehicle. Remind them to always follow the posted speed limit, and set consequences if it is not followed. 

Rule 4: No Alcohol:  Young drivers 15 to 20 years old are at far greater risk of death in crashes involving alcohol than the rest of us, even though they cannot legally purchase or possess it. If lucky enough to survive a crash, your teenager will have to face the consequences of breaking the law. 

Rule 5: Always Buckle Up: When teenagers are ready to drive, remind them that whether they are driving across town or just around the neighborhood, wearing seat belts is the absolute best way to protect themselves and their passengers in the event of a crash. By keeping drivers in a secure position, seat belts help all drivers maintain control of the vehicle in emergency situations.

Click Here to Read More

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Teen-Involved Crash Deaths Spike 10%, New Report Spotlights Older Teen Driver Behavior
Click Here to View Our GHSA Page to Read More About this Report.

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Progression Through Graduated Driver Licensing Programs
Traffic Injury Research Foundation - Progression Through Graduated Driver Licensing Programs Final Report

Click Here to Read the Report

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National Teen Driver Safety Week: October 16 - 22, 2016
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 19- year olds in the United States. In fact, in 2014 there were 2,679 teen (15 to 19) passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes and an estimated 123,000 teens were injured. Parents need to take the time to talk with their kids about the many dangers of driving. Those dangers include alcohol, lack of seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding, and extra passengers. These dangers are covered in the “5 to Drive” rules of the road.

Click Here to Read More

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Most Nighttime Crashes With Teen Drivers Happen Before Midnight

Teens are driving unsupervised too late at night, a recent study suggests, and expanding restrictions on their nighttime driving to include the hours before midnight could save lives.

Ruth Shults, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, says that getting a driver's license is an exciting rite of passage for teens. "But we also know that it can be a dangerous time for them," she says, because motor vehicle crashes kill more teens than anything else.

Driving in the dark is more difficult than driving during daylight hours, so every state but Vermont puts limits on teens' nighttime driving.

Read More Here

GHSA and Ford DSFL Award Funds to Support State Teen Safe Driving Activities
Click Here to go to our GHSA Page to Read More

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Examining Teen Driver Behaviors Present in Motor Vehicle Crashes
AAA: Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States.

Click Here to Read the Study

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Traffic Safety Fact Sheet: Young Drivers
NHTSA: In 2014, there were 1,717 young drivers 15 to 20 years old who died in motor vehicle crashes, an increase of 1 percent from 1,697 in 2013. Additionally, an estimated 170,000 young drivers were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, a decrease of 4 percent from 177,000 in 2013.

Read More Facts Here

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Summary of Findings from Recent CAPS Young Driver Study (2011-2015 Data)
The following are considered to be the most important findings of a study of 16-20 year old drivers from the point of view or countermeasure development:

  • Crash Causal Factors
    • Over-represented items are largely risk-taking behaviors that are highly associated younger drivers: Driving too Fast for Conditions, Following too Close, Over the Speed Limit, Misjudge Stopping Distance, and Failure to Yield that Right of Way.
    • Two-thirds of young drivers’ crashes involve two or more vehicles.  However, their over-representation in single vehicle crashes show an excess of unforced errors and risk-taking.
    • Electronic devices have the highest causal rank among distracted driving types that are defined.
    • Rain was a particular issue for young drivers, their having over 26% more than their expected number of crashes in the rain (in comparison with older drivers).
  • Severity Factors
    • Crashes with impact speeds from 70 to 90 MPH were over-represented for young driver caused crashes.
    • Necessity for young-driver caused crashes to be towed is over-represented by 26%, indicating that these crashes are more severe in the physics involved than those caused by older drivers.
  • Time Factors
    • Year.  A regression to the mean resulted in an overall increase of 3.01% between 2014 and 2015, a trend that needs to be watched carefully.
    • Day of the Week.  Fridays and the weekends are over-represented for crashes caused by young drivers.
    • Time of Day.  Before and after school are significantly greater than the normal rush hours, and the significant afternoon over-representations continue through the midnight hour.  The most over-represented hours are from 9 PM through to 1 AM.
    • Time of Day by Day of the Week.  Friday night, early Saturday morning, and Saturday night, early Sunday morning were over-represented hours.  However, far more crashes occur before and after school hours.
  • Roadway and Vehicle Factors
    • Curve and Down Grades are particularly problematic for young drivers who have not yet experienced the fact that braking might take twice as long on a down slope.
    • Over-represented vehicle maneuvers included Negotiating a Curve and Slowing/Stopping.
    • Young drivers on county highways had nearly 1.4 times the expected number of crashes.  State routes were also over-represented.  Interstates were under-represented indicating the tendency of younger drivers to drive locally.  The red bars below represent young (16-20) drivers, while the blue bars represent all drivers older than 20.  

See the Full Analysis Here

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Driving Skills Program Giving Teen Drivers on the Road Training
Teenage drivers got an advanced lesson on how to stay on the road and out of a crash recently. 

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is hosting the Ford Driving Skills for Life program.

“It’s an interactive training,” says Bill Whatley, with ADECA’s Law Enforcement and Traffic Safety division. “We get to bring professional drivers in here to work with these teen drivers. They get to over things such as distracted driving, impaired driving, hazard recognition, even down to seat belts and how to deal with pedestrians.”

The CDC says car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. It says that an average of 6 teenagers died every day in the year 2013 killing more than 2100 kids between 16 to 19 years old.

“As of yesterday, we’re up over 40 percent of highway traffic fatalities in our state,” Whatley says.

The Alabama Department of Public health points  to three primary factors that influence teen drivers the most: alcohol, seat belt and distractions.

“Our 2016 program features some of the newest and most innovative tools available to teach new drivers to be safe and make sound decisions behind the wheel,” said Jim Graham, manager of Ford Driving Skills for Life. “Our new Drugged Driving Suit is intended to complement our Drunk Driving Suit, giving students a critical eye into the consequences of impaired driving.”

The Ford Driving Skills for Life program says it goes beyond the traditional Drivers’ Education training. The instruction provided is not confined to those who can be there in person. The program’s website, has a series of videos designed for parents and teenagers to watch, discuss, and practice in the car.

Check out Bethany's behind the scenes look Here

Break-Even Point for Younger Drivers

The graphic above shows how younger drivers have more than their share of crashes.  The comparison is between the proportion of crashes caused by drivers of various ages (red bars) compared to the proportion of these drivers that are on the road (blue bars).  This second proportion was obtained from the age proportions of "victim drivers," i.e., those involved in crashes that they did not cause.  While the greatest number of crashes, both in number and proportion, are caused by those in the 16-19 age group, the 20-29 age group is also causing more than their share of crashes.  The over-representation of the 29 year old drivers is not significant, and the 29-31 ages can be said to have about what would be expected.  Above age 31, drivers are significantly under-represented until about age 74 (see older driver analysis).  As a comparison of the youngest and oldest drivers that are over-represented, the younger (16-29) age group caused 48,963 crashes per year, while the 74 and above group caused 5232 crashes per year; thus the younger group caused close to ten times the crashes as the older group (74-98), as can be visualized in the chart.
Infographic: Driving While Intexticated
Texting and driving is now the leading cause of death among teenagers. At least 3,000 teens die each year from accidents caused by texting and driving, and another 300,000 are injured. A full 58% of teens aged 18 admitted to texting while driving. Click here to READ MORE and view an excellent infographic that analyzes this dangerous trend. 
Risky driving among young male drivers: The effects of mood and passengers
Young male drivers are at greater risk of automobile crashes than other drivers. Efforts to reduce risky driving in this population have met with mixed success. The present research was designed to examine the effects of induced mood and the presence or absence of passengers on risky driving in young male drivers. Male drivers (n = 204) aged 16–18 were tested in a driving simulator. This study employed a 2 (happy/sad mood) by 2 (passenger present/absent) between-subjects factorial design, and examined driving behavior in a simulator. Measures of risky driving were combined into two factors representing speed (e.g., exceeding the speed limit) and carelessness (e.g., crossing the center line). Findings indicated that driving with a passenger resulted in faster driving than driving alone. Although there was no significant main effect of induced mood on driving, results revealed a significant interaction of mood and passenger conditions: when in a happy mood, driving with a passenger significantly increased driving speed. There were no significant effects of passenger or mood on careless driving. In conclusion, both mood and passenger presence are important factors in fast driving among young male drivers. Results are discussed in the context of developing more effective countermeasures for this at-risk population.

Read entire study here.
Trends in Alabama Teen Driving Death and Injury


Marie Crew RNC-NIC, BS; Elizabeth Irons MD; William King RPH, MPH, DrPH; Jesse Norris; Michele Nichols MD; Kathy Monroe MD

Background: Motor vehicle crashes (MVC) are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in teens. Alabama has been in the top five states for MVC fatality rate among teens in the U.S. for several years. Interventions such as a Graduated Driver's License law and media campaigns to increase public awareness have been employed to decrease MVC death and injury. Recently, we evaluated twelve years of teen MVC deaths and injuries to discern if changes in trend have occurred subsequent to legislative and educational interventions.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of Alabama teen MVC deaths and injury for the years 2000-2011 was conducted.  The Spearman rank correlation was used to test for correlation of deaths and injury over time.  MVC data were obtained from a CARE dataset managed by the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama. A Lowess regression - scattergram analysis was used to identify period specific changes in deaths and injury over time. The Mann Whitney U test was used to evaluate median differences in deaths and injury comparing pre 2007 and post 2007 data.  Statistical analysis was conducted using True Epistat 5.0 software.

Results: Alabama teen MVC deaths and injury demonstrated a significant negative correlation over the twelve year time period (R sub s for deaths and injury = -0.87,

p<0.001 and -0.92, p<0.001, respectively).  Lowess regression identified a notable decline in deaths and injury after the year 2006.  Median deaths and injury for the pre-2007 time period were significantly higher than the post 2007 time period, (U=35.0, p=0.003).

Conclusions: Alabama teen driver deaths and injury have decreased over the study 12 year period, most notably after 2006.  There are many factors that may have contributed to this trend. These factors may include stricter laws for teen drivers (enacted in 2002 and updated in 2010), less teen driving due to a nationwide economic downturn, delayed licensing in teens, steady improvements in overall seat belt use, and heightened public awareness of risky behaviors in teen driving.


Safe Kids Alabama Coordinator
Child Passenger Safety Resource Center Coordinator

Children's of Alabama
1600 7th Avenue South

Birmingham, Al 35233

205.638.6339 office
(205) 212-7044 fax
205.529.7441 cell phone

website: www.childrensal.org

A Message to Young Drivers
What can you do? You know the rules of the road, you passed your drivers test, you have great reflexes ... what else do you need? One answer lies in the recognition that very few (if any) people cause a crash when they are anticipating that it can happen to them and really thinking about it.

Thinking about this must become an established habit. How do you establish it? Take out your car key and look at it right now. Concentrate on it, and make a promise to yourself that every time you put that key into the ignition you will bring to your mind the real possibility that you could kill someone or end up spending your life in a wheelchair.

  • Recognize that without taking constant action to prevent it, you are always moving from a relatively safe to a relatively more hazardous situation. Notice this as you run up behind slower cars and encounter intersections, curves and other potentially hazardous situations. Safety does not come by default.
  • Counter this by actively moving from a less safe to a more safe situation. The following are some ways that you can do this.
  • Look well ahead for hazard indicators -- cars putting on their brakes, an approaching curve, warning signs ... these are advanced warnings ... do not ignore them and allow the hazard to overtake you.
  • Keep distance between you and other vehicles. Do not become part of the herd instinct to tailgate. These groups of tailgaters are called "slugs" of traffic. Don't be part of a slug. Maintain your speed so that you can stay between slugs. You might arrive about five seconds later, but you will arrive.
  • If you are being tailgated, just look for a safe place where they can pass and then gradually slow down and give them a chance to pass. Don't let others do your driving for you by forcing you to speed up and become part of a slug. Stay in control.
  • Be aware of the environment. It can take twice as long to stop going down a hill as on level ground. Adjust your driving accordingly.
It is totally in your control -- you do not have to be the cause of a collision.
Report Highlights Programs With Potential to Increase Teen Seat Belt Use
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Buckling up has always been a simple action that dramatically increases a person's chances of surviving a crash, but more than half of teen drivers killed in 2012 failed to use a seat belt. What's more shocking is that this number has increased by six percent over the last three years. And worse, teen passengers killed in fatal crashes use their seat belts even less than fatally injured teen drivers -- almost 20 percent less. A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and The Allstate Foundation is giving states and localities tools to combat these trends by highlighting programs across the country that can serve as models to increase teen seat belt use rates. READ MORE
Study Shows Loud Conversations Among Passengers a Distraction for Young Drivers
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Adolescent drivers are often distracted by technology while they’re driving, but loud conversations and horseplay between passengers appear more likely to result in a dangerous incident. READ MORE
Youth Risk Taking

The chart above compares the proportion of speed crashes (red bars) against those not related to speed (blue bars) according to age. Each set of two bars represents an age. Both the blue and the red bars are much higher for young people, but it is clear that young people are extremely high in their proportion of speed-related crashes. In fact, one out of every ten speed crashes is caused by a 16-year-old. Correspondingly, middle and older ages have a considerably smaller proportion of speed-related crashes than what is expect by their non-speed crashes (shown by the blue bars being higher than the red bars for these ages).

Source: Risky Driving Behavior and the Odds of Being Killed
End of Year and Spring Holidays - The Worst Days for Young Drivers

(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).