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Teen driver deaths increase in 2012, but remain near historic lows

A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that far fewer 16- and 17-year-old drivers are dying now than 10 years ago; tougher laws, economy play a role.

By Clifford Atiyeh Mar 1, 2013 1:13PM
More teen drivers died during the first six months of 2012 than the same time in 2011, although overall deaths remain near historic lows, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The GHSA, a nonprofit that represents highway offices in all 50 states, compiled crash statistics on 16- and 17-year-old drivers from January to June, the latest data available from each state. In total, 240 teenagers were killed behind the wheel, a 19 percent increase from 2011. That's up from 191 in 2010, the lowest in the past 13 years, but far below the 544 teenagers killed in 2002.

Tennessee suffered the most, with 16 teenagers killed, followed by Louisiana (15), Texas (14), and Alabama, Illinois and Kentucky (12 each). Indiana and Tennessee had the highest rises in deaths. Florida and North Carolina saw the greatest declines in teen driver deaths, and amazingly, Washington saw no deaths in the first half of 2012 after having six in 2011.

But statistics being what they are, the GHSA says it's tough to correlate year-over-year changes with specific state policies, given the variety in population, urban and rural areas and weather.

The GHSA did point out several key findings as to why teen driver deaths remain low:

  • An increase in Graduated Driver Licensing laws that enact curfews, bar nonfamily passengers and require parental supervision for a set number of hours. All 50 states now have them; most went into effect between 2005 and 2010. However, not all laws are the same or equally stringent.

  • The recession, along with higher gas prices and unemployment, likely led to the first significant decline of teen driver deaths starting in 2008.

  • Cellphone and texting bans in 31 states may have contributed to lower deaths, although the GHSA says this is essentially a guess as not enough studies have confirmed whether people of all ages are actually following the laws.

Of the areas needing improvement, the GHSA said that parents need to be better educated on their legal requirements to train their teens on the road and that driver training needs to be standardized with regard to curriculum and the number of required hours.

If you ask us, we think the lack of U.S. driver training is the No. 1 cause for why teens grow up into such unskilled adult drivers. We've called for $500 driver's licenses in the past -- no doubt an unpopular case to make, but one that if handled responsibly could pay for improved training programs and more law enforcement and force Americans to take driving as a serious, life-threatening privilege rather than a right.

[Source: GHSA]
Mar 1, 2013 3:27PM
No texting, phone calling, and other multi-tasking while driving.  If anyone of any age is caught doing that - a big, fat fine should be given to the driver.  
Mar 1, 2013 2:37PM
I'm an advocate that all states should have a driver's training course completion as mandatory before issuing driver's licenses to anyone.  When I attended training, it was provided through my high school after hours, just like sports teams practice and play after school hours.  The teacher was a certified instructor, who signed off on my driving test.  I was then allowed to take my DMV test, which I was able to pass the first time around, and subsequently issued by driver's license.  I was also fortunate enough to complete my driver's training during the winter with snow and ice on the roads, so I learned defensive driving.  I received two parking tickets in 37 years, and never been in an accident where I was at fault.  I've never had to be treated by a doctor for an accident injury.  I believe this record is because of the proper driver's training I received before my driver's license was issued.
Mar 1, 2013 3:27PM
Of course they increased for 2012, Can not even count how many of these spoiled brats I dodge constantly as they text and drive!
Mar 1, 2013 2:40PM
Hmm. Almost the same statistical trend as children (or anyone) killed by "assault weapons". Both stats are at historic lows. So by the same logic we should probably ban all cars because you know, we care about our children. Just ask Andrew Cuomo or Diane Feinstein.
Mar 1, 2013 4:12PM
That's because with all this high tech crap we're growing them dumber
Mar 1, 2013 4:23PM

I also think the ability of kids to get after school jobs is limited now.  Many people are working jobs to support their families they never thought they would work, and entry level jobs teenagers used to get are now filled by illegal aliens, and Americans hit hard by the recession. I do not think the reduced deaths has as much to do with law changes as it does with the recession.  Notice how 544 teenagers were killed in 2002, before the recession.  When we all had good jobs, houses and better paying jobs... 

Mar 1, 2013 4:17PM

I believe there are less teenage driving deaths because of the recession, and the inability of many parents to afford insurance and cars for their kids.  Notice how 544 teenagers were killed driving in 2002. That was before the recession, when we all had money, houses and better paying jobs...


Mar 4, 2013 11:45AM
Problem is most parents think that when a teen turns 16 it is their "right" to drive.  Wrong!  I didn't let my youngest daughter have her drivers permit until she was 17.  She was not ready, not mature enough to drive a vehicle.  I would not put her on the road with you.  She was so easily distracted on just doing chores and getting them done.   License came after she made me feel confident she could handle herself with a deadly weapon.  Beings she was going to be on my insurance, and I was paying the insurance.  She didn't get her license until she was almost 18.  She has been a great driver since.  No accidents, tickets.  She is now 22.  (no I don't pay her insurance any longer).
Mar 3, 2013 9:00PM

The ones handing out the driver's license simply need to stop pencil whipping, turning the other way and actually do their jobs.  Surely there are indicators of an unsafe driver when the person gets behind the wheel outside of cell phone useage.   The license lady in my area normally fails about 50% of condidates for unsafe conditions and driving manuevers.   I agree that traning is key in both the formal sense and in the parntal figure sense as well. I also believe that like many other things,  driving isn't for everyone. 



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