The crash and fatality rates for drivers under 21 has improved drastically over the past two decades, according to a new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

The report, Young Drivers and Traffic Fatalities: 20 Years of Progress on the Road to Zero, includes an analysis of Fatality Analysis Reporting System data for 2002-2021 and identifies the policies and programs responsible for the gains in teen driver safety and makes recommendations for building on that success.

Over the past two decades, fatal crashes involving a young driver has fallen 38 percent, while increasing nearly eight percent for drivers 21 and older, according to the research.

The GHSA said although young people are less likely to drive today than they were 20 years ago, this accounted for only a small portion of the large decreases.

The report discusses five proven policies and programs that research confirms the teen driver safety gains can be attributed to and recommends building on these. They are:

  • Strengthen Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws
  • Bolster parent/guardian and other adult involvement
  • Make driver training available to all
  • Invest in impactful peer-to-peer education programs
  • Leverage driver assistance technology and apps

GHSA also proposes incorporating technology and driver responsibility into education.

“Young drivers are the riskiest age group on the road, and the reasons are straightforward – immaturity and inexperience,” said GHSA Senior Director of External Engagement Pam Shadel Fischer, the report’s author and a national teen driver safety expert.

She said this impacted the safety of everyone on the road, not just the teen behind the wheel.

“In 2021, 63 percent of the people killed in crashes involving a young driver were their passengers, occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians or bicyclists,” she added.