Background: Crash risk is highest during the first months after licensure. Current knowledge about teenagers' driving exposure and the factors increasing their crash risk is based on self-reported data and crash database analyses. While these research tools are useful, new developments in naturalistic technologies have allowed researchers to examine newly-licensed teenagers' exposure and crash risk factors in greater detail. The Naturalistic Teenage Driving Study (NTDS) described in this paper is the first study to follow a group of newly-licensed teenagers continuously for 18 months after licensure. The goals of this paper are to compare the crash and near-crash experience of drivers in the NTDS to national trends, to describe the methods and lessons learned in the NTDS, and to provide initial data on driving exposure for these drivers.
Methods: A data acquisition system was installed in the vehicles of 42 newly-licensed teenage drivers 16 years of age during their first 18 months of independent driving. It consisted of cameras, sensors (accelerometers, GPS, yaw, front radar, lane position, and various sensors obtained via the vehicle network), and a computer with removable hard drive. Data on the driving of participating parents was also collected when they drove the instrumented vehicle.
Findings: The primary findings after 18 months included the following: (1) crash and near-crash rates among teenage participants were significantly higher during the first six months of the study than the final 12 months, mirroring the national trends; (2) crash and near-crash rates were significantly higher for teenage than adult (parent) participants, also reflecting national trends; (3) teenaged driving exposure averaged between 507 and 710km (315-441miles) per month over the study period, but varied substantially between participants with standard errors representing 8-14 percent of the mean; and (4) crash and near-crash types were very similar for male and female teenage drivers.
Discussion: The findings are the first comparing crash and near-crash rates among novice teenage drivers with those of adults using the same vehicle over the same period of time. The finding of highly elevated crash rates of novice teenagers during the first six months of licensure are consistent with and confirm the archival crash data showing high crash risk for novice teenagers. The NTDS convenience sample of teenage drivers was similar to the US teenage driver population in terms of exposure and crash experience. The dataset is expected be a valuable resource for future in-depth analyses of crash risk, exposure to risky driving conditions, and comparisons of teenage and adult driving performance in various driving situations.
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