Driving Research & Statistics

The Just Drive! program focuses on parents of teens in addition to the teens themselves. Research shows that teens often mimic their parents’ bad driving habits, even though they know it’s not smart and not safe. In 2005, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin gathered additional research on this phenomenon by conducting an online survey to better understand teens’ and parents’ perceptions of their driving and of each other’s driving.  

What they learned confirmed their thinking. 

The survey found that parents were, indeed, the biggest influence on teen drivers. Nearly 70 percent of the teens said their mother or father influenced them in how to drive. However, adult drivers did not exhibit the best role model behavior. 

The survey found most parents exhibit the same distracted behaviors as teens such as talking on the phone, listening to music, eating, speeding and following other vehicles too closely.  

In fact, when asked to list the top five driving distractions, both teens and parents reported the same distractions, all of which they said they had done within the last 30 days:

  • Changing the radio station; tape or CD (79 percent)
  • Exceeding the speed limit (61 percent)
  • Driving without both hands on the steering wheel (61 percent)
  • Talking on the phone (51 percent)
  • Eating (45 percent)

More concerning, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they, a family member or a close friend had experienced the effects of a car crash, yet more than half (56 percent) didn’t change their driving habits because of the crash.

While both groups admit to being distracted, many are not changing their behaviors even if involved in a crash. If they are changing behavior after the crash, the tendency was to shift the focus to other drivers rather than themselves.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Teens are divided on whether they believe they drive differently with their friends than with their parents. Just over 40 percent said they don’t drive differently with their friends and nearly 40 percent said they do.
  • Parents are also divided on whether they believe teens drive differently with their friends. More than 30 percent said they believe they do drive differently and nearly 30 percent said they don’t (38 percent weren’t sure).
  • When all respondents were asked if teens are often distracted drivers, 90 percent said they somewhat or strongly agree.

National Driving Statistics

According to a 2006 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds. During 2006, once every hour of every weekend and once every two hours during the week a teen died in a traffic crash according to that same report. Below are more driving statistics to drive home the need for safe driving education:

  • Every year an average of more than 5,000 young drivers (ages 16-20) are killed in passenger vehicle crashes (NHTSA).
  • In 2006 a national total of 4,842 young drivers (ages 16-20) were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Over half of them, 58 percent, were unrestrained at the time of the fatal crash (NHTSA).
  • A 2008 survey conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 82 percent rated distracted driving as a serious problem. Over half of the same drivers admitted to talking on their cell phones while driving in the past 30 days and 14 percent said they had read or sent a text message while driving in the same amount of time.
  • According to a July 2008 Report to Congress put together by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations, in 2006 young drivers (ages 15-20) had 59.5 fatal crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers, the highest of all age groups and more than double the amount of any age group over 35.
  • In 2006, 25 percent of young drivers (ages 15-20) who were killed in crashes had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of .08 or higher at the time of the crash.

Wisconsin Driving Statistics

According to the 2007 Wisconsin Facts and Figures presented by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation:

  • Approximately 737 people were killed in Wisconsin motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2007, just a little less than the average of 788 deaths resulting from crashes in Wisconsin per year. This is an average of two lives lost every day on Wisconsin traffic ways.
    • Of the 737 killed, 46 percent died in alcohol related crashes and 34 percent died in speed-related crashes.
  • In Wisconsin in 2007, traffic crashes accounted for the fatalities of 91 individuals in the age group of 16 – 19, up from 2006.
  • For two of three drivers ages 16 – 19 that were killed in a crash, the fatal crash was their first and last.
  • Teenage passengers of have a much higher risk of fatality or injury riding with other teen drivers. In 2007, 65 percent of teenage passengers killed died riding in vehicles with drivers under the age of 20. Approximately 129 teenage passengers in the same year suffered incapacitating injuries resulting from crashes involving teenage drivers.
  • Only 5.3 percent of all Wisconsin-licensed drivers are ages 16-19, but drivers in this age group account for 12 percent of all drivers involved in crashes.
  • The peak hour for driving crashes among teenagers is 3 – 4 pm. More crashes occur on Fridays than any other day of the week.
  • On average, a teen driver was involved in a fatal crash every 3.5 days in Wisconsin.
  • Since Wisconsin enacted all six phases of the Graduated Driver License (GDL) Teen Driving Safety in 2000, the number of 16-year old drivers involved in crashes has decreased.