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A report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths in passenger vehicles increased dramatically for the first six months of 2012, based on preliminary data supplied by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Overall, 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths increased from 202 to 240 – a 19 percent jump.
The increase in teen driver deaths coincides with a projection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in which all traffic deaths increased by 8 percent. It is particularly concerning that 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths appear to have increased at an even greater rate.
What will it take to convince our teens of the importance of safety and risk avoidance?
The new report – the first state-by-state look at teen driver fatalities in 2012 – was completed by Dr. Allan Williams, a researcher who was the chief scientist with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Deaths of 16-year-old drivers increased from 86 to 107 (a 24 percent change), while the number for 17-year-old drivers went from 116 to 133 (a 15 percent change), a cumulative increase of 19 percent. Twenty-five states reported increases, 17 had decreases, and eight states and the District of Columbia reported no change in the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths.
Dr. Williams attributes much of the increase to the fact that the benefit of state Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws may be leveling off, as most of these laws have been in place for some time. Additionally, Dr. Williams speculates that improving economic conditions may be contributing to an increase in teen driving, thus increasing their exposure to risk. Dr. Williams notes, “Based on 2011 final data and the early look at 2012, it appears that we are headed the wrong direction when it comes to deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers.”
One has to wonder whether there's a relationship between the increase in fatalities and the decrease in school-based driver-ed training.
Dr. Williams stresses that while the news is certainly not good, deaths in this age group remain at a historically low level. He notes, “We are still at a much better place than we were ten or even five years earlier. However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year.”
For the full report, click here:
Teenage Driver Fatalities by State: GHSA Report