This past December we reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had found traffic fatalities in 2010 were at their lowest level since 1949. Unfortunately, another study released yesterday by the Governors Highway Safety Association reveals that the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths is headed in the opposite direction.

While NHTSA has yet to release overall numbers for motor vehicle deaths in 2011, projections for the first six months have overall fatalities declining 0.9 percent. The number of teen driver deaths during that time, however, increased 11 percent from 190 the year before to 211, according to the report. The study is based on preliminary data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia that counts the number of drivers in this age group who died behind the wheel during the first six months of 2011. The states with the highest increase in teen driver deaths during that time were Florida, Texas and North Carolina.

While data for the last half of 2011 wasn't included in the report, if the trend continued through New Year's, it would mark the end of eight straight years of decline fatalities for this age group. As for why it's happening, the researchers behind the study specifically cite the benefits of Graduate Driver Licensing laws, which have been around in many states since the '90s, finally leveling off.

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