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Trends in teen driver licensure, driving patterns and crash involvement in the United States, 2006–2015☆
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  • Alternative Title:
    J Safety Res
  • Description:

    The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey provides nationally-representative annual estimates of licensure and driving patterns among U.S. teens. A previous study using MTF data reported substantial declines in the proportion of high school seniors that were licensed to drive and increases in the proportion of nondrivers following the recent U.S. economic recession.


    To explore whether licensure and driving patterns among U.S. high school seniors have rebounded in the post-recession years, we analyzed MTF licensure and driving data for the decade of 2006–2015. We also examined trends in teen driver involvement in fatal and nonfatal injury crashes for that decade using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates System, respectively.


    During 2006–2015, the proportion of high school seniors that reported having a driver’s license declined by 9 percentage points (11%) from 81% to 72% and the proportion that did not drive during an average week increased by 8 percentage points (44%) from 18% to 26%. The annual proportion of black seniors that did not drive was consistently greater than twice the proportion of nondriving white seniors. Overall during the decade, 17- and 18-year-old drivers experienced large declines in fatal and nonfatal injury crashes, although crashes increased in both 2014 and 2015.


    The MTF data indicate that licensure and driving patterns among U.S. high school seniors have not rebounded since the economic recession. The recession had marked negative effects on teen employment opportunities, which likely influenced teen driving patterns. Possible explanations for the apparent discrepancies between the MTF data and the 2014 and 2015 increases in crashes are explored.

    Practical applications

    MTF will continue to be an important resource for clarifying teen driving trends in relation to crash trends and informing strategies to improve teen driver safety.

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