Report: Beware of Unlicensed Drivers

ByABC News
July 13, 2000, 5:08 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, July 13 -- One in every five fatal car crashes in theUnited States each year involves a driver who does not have a validlicense or whose license status is a mystery to law enforcement,according to a study released Wednesday.

The report, Unlicensed to Kill, sponsored by the AAAFoundation for Traffic Safety, said that 8,400 people die onaverage each year in crashes with unlicensed drivers. It also foundthat 28 percent of the lawbreaking drivers had received three ormore license suspensions or revocations in the three years beforetheir fatal collision.

Its like a revolving door. These people are being suspendedand suspended and suspended again, and still, theyre driving,said researcher Lindsay I. Griffin of the Texas TransportationInstitute at Texas A&M University.

The researchers did not know the total number of unlicenseddrivers on U.S. roads today, but said they believe those driversare involved in an inordinate number of fatal crashes.

Griffin and colleagues studied five years of data from theDepartment of Transportations Fatality Analysis Reporting System,1993 through 1997. They studied 278,078 drivers involved in 183,749fatal crashes.

Among the drivers, 13.8 percent, or 38,374, had a license thatwas suspended, revoked, expired, canceled or denied; had no licenseat all; or, in some cases, were a mystery because they werehit-and-run drivers, or law enforcement officers could notdetermine their license status for other reasons.

Among the crashes, 20 percent, or 36,750, involved such adriver.

The researchers found some common characteristics among illegaldrivers in fatal crashes:

One-third were younger than 20.

They were more likely to be male.

They were more likely to drive during late night or earlymorning hours.

Among those with a suspended license, they were about threetimes more likely to be drunk in the opinion of the investigatingofficer than properly licensed drivers. Those who had a revokedlicense were about four times more likely to be drunk.