U.S. teenaged and young-adult drivers' elevated rates of fatal traffic crash involvement typically are attributed to biological and developmental risk-taking associated with young age. However, young drivers differ from older ones along several sociodemographic dimensions, including higher poverty rates and greater concentration in poorer areas, which may contribute to their risks.
Using Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Census, and Federal Highway Administration data for 1994-2007, bivariate and multivariate regression analyses were conducted of fatal motor-vehicle crash involvements per 100 million miles driven by driver age (16 through 74) and state along with 14 driver-, vehicle-, and state-level variables.
Driver age was not a significant predictor of fatal crash risk once several factors associated with high poverty status (more occupants per vehicle, smaller vehicle size, older vehicle age, lower state per-capita income, lower state population density, more motor-vehicle driving, and lower education levels) were controlled. These risk factors were significantly associated with each other and with higher crash involvement among adult drivers as well. SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION: The strong association between fatal crash risk and environments of poverty as operationalized by substandard vehicle and driving conditions suggests a major overlooked traffic safety factor particularly affecting young drivers.