Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and acquired disability during the first four decades of life. While teen drivers have the highest crash risk, few studies examine the similarities and differences in teen and adult driver crashes. We aimed to: (1) identify and compare the most frequent crash scenarios-integrated information on a vehicle's movement prior to crash, immediate pre-crash event, and crash configuration-for teen and adult drivers involved in serious crashes, and (2) for the most frequent scenarios, explore whether the distribution of driver critical errors differed for teens and adult drivers. We analyzed data from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, a nationally representative study of serious crashes conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2005 to 2007. Our sample included 642 16- to 19-year-old and 1167 35- to 54-year-old crash-involved drivers (weighted n=296,482 and 439,356, respectively) who made a critical error that led to their crash's critical pre-crash event (i.e., event that made the crash inevitable). We estimated prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) to compare the relative frequency of crash scenarios and driver critical errors. The top five crash scenarios among teen drivers, accounting for 37.3% of their crashes, included: (1) going straight, other vehicle stopped, rear end; (2) stopped in traffic lane, turning left at intersection, turn into path of other vehicle; (3) negotiating curve, off right edge of road, right roadside departure; (4) going straight, off right edge of road, right roadside departure; and (5) stopped in lane, turning left at intersection, turn across path of other vehicle. The top five crash scenarios among adult drivers, accounting for 33.9% of their crashes, included the same scenarios as the teen drivers with the exception of scenario (3) and the addition of going straight, crossing over an intersection, and continuing on a straight path. For two scenarios ((1) and (3) above), teens were more likely than adults to make a critical decision error (e.g., traveling too fast for conditions). Our findings indicate that among those who make a driver critical error in a serious crash, there are few differences in the scenarios or critical driver errors for teen and adult drivers.
Keywords: Adult drivers; Crash scenarios; Crash-contributing factors; Risk factors; Teen drivers; Traffic safety.
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