Preventing Motor Vehicle Injuries in Young Workers

With summer here and thousands of young people entering the workplace, either taking a summer job or entering the labor market as recent graduates, this group of teens and young adults have higher crash rates than any other group.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related fatalities among young people in the United States ages 16 to 24. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.

Fortunately, teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can improve the safety of young drivers on the road.

From 2003 to 2010, 843 workers ages 16 to 24 died in motor vehicle crashes at work. These incidents accounted for 22% of all workplace fatalities in this age group. In 67% of these incidents, the young worker was driving the vehicle involved in the crash.

Federal child labor laws severely limit workplace driving by youth under 18 years of age. Although most young adults are allowed by law to drive on the job starting at age 18, they lack the maturity and driving experience of their older co-workers. Young drivers might also be more likely to engage in driving behaviors that increase their risk of injury or death, such as not wearing seat belts or driving while distracted.

According to NIOSH, the following factors lead to crashes among young drivers.

-Driving inexperience;
-Inconsistent seat belt use;
-Tendency to overestimate driving skills;
-Desire to meet employer time expectations, messaging, adjusting controls, eating and drinking, or interacting with other passengers;

Other factors are:

  • Immaturity;
  • Poor impulse control, judgment, and decision-making skills;
  • Difficulty in recognizing and responding to traffic hazards;
  • Immaturity, poor impulse control, judgment, and decision-making skills.

OSHA has issued guidelines for employers to reduce motor vehicle crashes. The CDC also has a fact sheet to assist teen drivers.