Unlicensed to Kill: The Findings - Unlicensed drivers still involved in one of every five fatal crashes

By AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Volume 23, Number 1 (Fall 2012)
Issue theme: "Victims of Immigration"

The following excerpts are from the 2008 update of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Study Unlicensed to Kill (2000), available at www.aaafoundation.org/reports.

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.1

Nationwide, from 2001 through 2005, an average of 58,423 drivers were involved in 38,505 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes that resulted in 42,886 deaths each year.

Overall, an average of 8,030 drivers who were definitely or possibly driving with an invalid license or no license (13.7 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes) were involved in 7,679 fatal crashes (19.9 percent of all fatal crashes), which resulted in the deaths of 8,801 people (20.5 percent of all deaths
occurring in motor vehicle traffic crashes).

Of those 8,030 annual fatal-crash-involved drivers definitely or possibly driving with an invalid license or no license, 2,403 (29.9 percent) were driving with no known license, 3,499 (43.6 percent) were driving with a suspended license or a revoked license, and 610 (7.6 percent) were driving with a cancelled, expired, or otherwise invalid license. Crashes involving these drivers resulted in an average of 7,243 annual deaths.

The license status of the remaining 1,519 drivers (18.9 percent) could not be determined. Of these drivers of unknown license status, 53.9 percent were hit-and-run drivers, who fled from the crash scene. Available data from hit-and-run drivers whose license status could be determined shows that 41.1 percent of these drivers were driving illegally with an invalid license or no license, compared to 11.0 percent of drivers who remained at the scenes of their crashes. Crashes involving drivers of unknown license status resulted in
1,558 annual deaths.

[The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)] also records the number of prior license suspensions and revocations that drivers had on their record in the three years preceding the crash; these were also analyzed. Each year, an average of 6,948 drivers involved in fatal crashes (11.9 percent) had one or more license suspensions or revocations on record in the three years prior to the crash, including 1,725 with three or more suspensions or revocations on record, and 100 drivers with
ten or more suspensions or revocations.

1. DeYoung, D. J., R. C. Peck, and C. J. Helander. 1997. Estimating the exposure and fatal crash rates of suspended/revoked and unlicensed drivers in California. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 29(1): 17–23.

Seventeen-year-old Adam Nevells (left) died September 4, 2009, from fatal
injuries in a car crash the previous evening. On September 3, Nevells had
returned to Okemos High School (near East Lansing, Michigan) with friends
after a football game. He pulled out of the parking lot at 11:20pm and into
the path of an oncoming pick-up truck. Valeriano Acosta-Bautista, 21, an Ille-gal alien and driver of the pick-up truck, t-boned Nevells’ car. He was driving
with an expired Mexican driver’s license, and allegedly had no lights on at
the time of the crash. One year after the crash, Acosta-Bautista was charged
with causing Nevells’ death. The Michigan appeals court recently decided
in favor of Acosta-Bautista. It determined that “state law doesn’t fit in the
death” of Nevells. Acosta-Bautista, who no longer lives in the U.S., violated
multiple state and federal laws as an illegal alien and unlicensed motorist.
Nevells’ tragic death is another easily preventable loss of a young American.