Comparison of crash rates and rear-end striking crashes among novice teens and experienced adults using the SHRP2 Naturalistic Driving Study by Dr. Thomas Seacrist (et al.) has been named the AAAM Top Paper for 2016. Dr. Seacrist will be presented with the award at the 2017 AAAM Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

By Thomas Seacrist

Despite continued advances in active and passive safety, motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of mortality and morbidity.  In 2015 alone, more than 35,000 motor vehicle related deaths occurred in the US, representing a 7.2% increase from 2014.  Early estimates from NHTSA’s NCSA for 2016 are not promising, with 17,775 fatalities in the first half of 2016; a 10% increase from 2015.  Disproportionately represented among these crashes are novice teen drivers, with reported crash rates of up to 4 times greater than experienced adult drivers.  While these crash rates provide striking data on the prevalence of crashes among novice teen drivers, they are not without limitations.  Crash rates often focus on fatal crashes or police-reported crashes only and are based on estimated miles driven.  Prior work has shown that nearly a third of all crashes are not reported to police.  Therefore, the incidence of teen crashes may be even greater than previously thought.

To this end, Seacrist et al. (2016) utilized the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHPR2) Naturalistic Driving Study to compare crash rates between novice teen (16-19 yrs) and experienced adult (35-54 yrs) drivers.  The SHRP2 database contains extensive data on real-world driving and offers a unique opportunity to develop crash rates inclusive of all crashes, not only those reported to police, while providing an exact quantification of the miles driven.  Video review of SHRP2 crashes revealed significantly more at-fault crashes among novice teens, with a crash rate of nearly 6 times greater than experienced adult drivers.  The disparity between teen and adult crash rates was even greater when focusing on the most common crash scenario – rear-end crashes – with teens exhibiting a rear-end crash rate of 7.5 times greater than experienced adults.  Additionally, novice teens crashed with greater severity and at higher speeds than experienced adults.

These increased novice teen crash rates may be attributed to previously documented differences in teen driving behavior.  Prior research has identified inattention, distraction, and driver errors as contributions to teen crashes.  Furthermore, an inability to perceive hazards and appropriately respond to emergency situations has also been shown among teen drivers.

To our knowledge, this is the first study to compare crash rates between teens and adults using a large-scale naturalistic driving database.  Unlike previous crash rates, the reported rates reliably control for crash type and driving exposure.  These results conform to previous findings that novice teens exhibit increased crash rates compared to experienced adults.  Future work involving the SHRP2 dataset is currently underway quantifying crash rates for other crash modes such as intersections and run-off roads, determining contributing factors to these novice teen crashes, and exploring additional age groups including young adult drivers who are transitioning from novice to experienced driving.

To read the complete paper, click here