Unlicensed Drivers - Everyone is at Risk

Since at least 1993, one out of every five fatal crashes has involved at least one driver who was not properly licensed.

Previous research has found that unlicensed drivers and drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked are significantly more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than are validly-licensed drivers. A 2000 study by the AAA Foundation reported that 13.8 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes between the years of 1993 and 1997 had no driver’s license, an invalid license, or was of unknown license status. Furthermore, the study found that fully one in five fatal crashes occurring between years 1993 and 1997 involved at least one such unlicensed or improperly licensed driver.

In 2003, we updated the research and found that as of 1999, these statistics remained virtually unchanged. Very recently, we have updated these statistics again, using the most recent data available. Here's what we found:

  • Over 8,000 drivers involved in fatal crashes annually—nearly one of every seven drivers involved in fatal crashes—have an invalid license, no license, or unknown license status (possibly invalid or unlicensed).
  • Almost 12 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes have had their license suspended or revoked at least once in the preceding three years, including over 1,700 who have had their licenses suspended or revoked three or more times, and about 100 whose licenses have been suspended or revoked ten or more times.

Do as I say, or do as I do?

American motorists blame other motorists for unsafe driving, despite the fact many admit to doing the same dangerous practices themselves, according to a new report out today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. For example, Americans rated drinking drivers as the most serious traffic safety issue, yet in the previous month alone, almost 10 percent of motorists admitted to driving when they thought their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit.

Where's the outrage? Every 13 minutes, someone dies on America's roads - yet the nation seems complacent about these preventable tragedies. The 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index makes clear that while motorists are quick to blame the ‘other guy' for deadly practices like drunk, aggressive or distracted driving, too often those pointing the finger are themselves, part of the problem. When almost 10 percent of motorists admit to recently driving after drinking too much alcohol, the problem is much worse than people think. We need a big red flag to focus all stakeholders on real solutions for highway safety. Instead, we seem to be waving the white flag of surrender by largely accepting the carnage of forty thousand deaths on the road each year.