Home > Archived: Decrease number of young driver involved fatalities on all roads

Archived: Decrease number of young driver involved fatalities on all roads

Data Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from the WA Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). Data for 2013 is preliminary and subject to change until January 1, 2015.

Young drivers involved in fatal crashes are segmented into three age groups shown at left. Laws impact their license type and legal drinking age.

Comparing 2011-2013 to previous years, impairment from alcohol or marijuana decreased for all three age groups. However in 2013 alcohol was still found in 28% of the 21-25 year old driver involved fatalities and in 15% of the 18-20 year old group. Marijuana was still found in 15% of the 18-20 group and in 12% of the 21-25 group. Speeding was involved more often than impairment for all three age groups, at approximately 40%. Since 2012 had the lowest fatalities (2013 returned to 2011 levels), DOL is studying individual collision files for information that might contribute to future reduction in fatalities.

Although Washington has the 5th lowest young driver involved fatality rate in the nation, a relatively positive ranking is not our target; zero is our target.

Why is this a priority?


Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16 to 25 year olds in Washington. Drivers of this age group have the highest rates of crashes, speeding, impairment and distraction of any driver age group in the state. Even though fatalities involving young drivers continue to decrease yearly, and continue trending toward our "zero by 2030" target, agencies' authorities and influences over these drivers need to continuously respond to new research into what works best to impact the safety, choices and behaviors of young drivers.

How are we doing?
What are we working on?

Education: DOL is currently updating and improving the driver training curriculum, guide and tests to reflect updated national and state research. DOL continues to produce young driver safety videos through the DOL website and You Tube. Over 4.6 million views have occurred.

Restrictions:The Intermediate Driver Licensing (IDL) law of 2001 imposed stronger requirements and restriction on 16 and 17 year old drivers. The wireless device law of 2008 prohibited all use of these devices for 16 and 17 year olds. Young driver collisions decreased following these restrictions.

Intervention: DOL intervenes when young drivers receive their first traffic violation. DOL sends an early warning letter to parents of 16 and 17 year old drivers. Since 2011, DOL sends a separate early warning letter to 18 to 21 year olds. This is based on our predictive modeling research which found their risk of a collision doubled after just one violation.

Research: DOL continues to research the violation, education and licensure patterns exhibited by young drivers to determine which strategies have positive impacts on their driving behavior. Now that two years of data are available after launching the 18 to 21 year olds' warning letters, the impact on recidivism has been studied. Recidivism has been reduced.

Partnerships: DOL collaborates with public and private stakeholders to continuously assess and impact young driver safety, including the Young Driver Task Force and Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. DOL partners with private driver training schools and instructors to make testing more accessible to the public, and regulates and audits these partners’ performance.

What are the results?

Trending Toward Zero: Fatalities involving drivers age 16 to 25 are declining at a rate which could result in zero deaths by 2023 (using linear projection based on 10 previous years). However for the 21 to 25 year olds within this population, the rate of decline is not sufficient to reach the zero fatalities target by 2030.