• Feb 26, 2013
Teen drivers can be a menace on the highway. (AP)
Using a small pool of data collected in the first half of 2012, the Governor's Highway Safety Association said deaths of teen drivers jumped sharply, up 19 percent compared with a year earlier. The numbers reverse a decade-long trend that showed a decrease in teen driving deaths.

The GHSA says their data -- which looks solely at how many teens caused their own death and not a fatalities involving passengers, people in other vehicles or pedestrians -- is a good indicator of teen behavior behind the wheel. The GHSA said the increase in teen deaths should be a warning to states that they need to take early driver education and graduated drivers licensing laws seriously.

"Any increase in highway deaths is unacceptable, particularly among our teens," said Kendell Poole, chairman of the GHSA and director of the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office. "We know from research and experience that teen drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but also a danger to others on the roadways. So these numbers are a cause for concern."

There were 107 drivers aged 16 who died between January and June of last year, compared to 86 drivers during the first half of 2011. Deaths of 17-year-old drivers rose from 116 in the first half of 2011 to 133 in the first half of last year. The report is based on preliminary state data that sometimes changes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to release more definitive data later this year.

Indiana and Tennessee lead the nation in teen driver fatalities, with 16 in each state. Louisiana had 15, Texas had 14, and there were 12 deaths each in Alabama, Illinois and Kentucky. Eleven states had zero teen deaths during the timeframe of the study, including three that had zero teen deaths two years in a row: Nevada, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

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.

Graduated driver licensing (or GDLs) are the most effective step states can take to cutting back on fatalities. Adopted by almost every state in the U.S., graduated licenses put caps on the hours teens can drive, how many other passengers they can have in a car, and insist they do 30 to 50 hours of practice before moving on to an unrestricted license.

But the strength of each GDL law varies from state to state. GHSA says states with more restrictive programs tend to have safer young drivers.

Barbara Harsha, Executive Director of GHSA, urged states to focus on strengthening GDLs. Data also shows that parent involvement in enforcing GDL laws and monitoring teen driving behavior is critical, so Harsha said states should consider implementing parent programs to help parents keep their teens safe.

"Parents have a huge responsibility to ensure safe teen driving behavior," she said. "States can facilitate this by providing innovative programs that bring parents and teens together around this issue."

Overall Numbers On The Decline

Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said the increase in deaths of teen drivers "should motivate governors and legislative leaders to make passage of stronger teen driving laws an urgent priority."

Deaths of novice drivers dropped dramatically over the past decade at a time when many states were imposing greater restrictions on teen drivers, including limits on driving with teen passengers or driving at night.

There were 435 16-year-old drivers killed in all of 2000. That total dropped to 173 by 2011.

A similar trend occurred with 17-year-old drivers as the number of deaths dropped from 564 to 250 during the same time frame.

"We are still at a much better place than we were 10 or even five years earlier," said researcher Allan Williams, the report's author and former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year."

It's difficult to know exactly why teen driving deaths declined so dramatically, or why they now appear to be on an upswing, researchers said.

The long-term decline in teen driver deaths coincided with a historic, although more gradual, decline in traffic fatalities overall. That decline also appears to have been arrested. A report last week by National Safety Council said traffic fatalities rose 5 percent last year. It's the first increase since 2004 to 2005.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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  • 138 Comments
      • 1 Year Ago
      Stevendy1: I'm from Indiana born and raised. What you described in TN sounds a lot like what goes on in Indiana. You can get your permit at 15 as long as you drive with your parents. No drivers ed unless you can afford Sears. Everyone is a speed-racer and tit-for-tat road rage is a daily occurrence.
      • 1 Year Ago
      As a new teen driver, THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT HELP MY FRAGILE DRIVING PSYCHE.
      hpycmpr155
      • 1 Year Ago
      I love the sign on a local church that says: Honk if you love Jesus Text if you want to meet Him
      joe7774021
      • 1 Year Ago
      Outlaw guns, outlaw motor vehicles, outlaw sharp objects. Just look at all the lives that will be saved
      • 1 Year Ago
      uptil I saw the draft four $8461, I be certain that my sister woz like they say truly bringing home money parttime on their apple labtop.. there uncle has been doing this for only about 8 months and at present repayed the loans on their place and got a gorgeous Infiniti. go to.......... BIT40.ℂOℳ
      packard54
      • 1 Year Ago
      The "teen" driver has always taken the biggest rap as far as driving goes. During the late 50's and through the 60's, teens were lured to cars by HORSEPOWER! We had 409 Chevys, 390 Tri-powered Fords, and the ever famous Hemi Dodges & Plymouths. Zero to 60 in 5 - 6 seconds! New cars are MUCH lighter and V-6 engines are now producing 300+ Horsepower from the factory. Zero to 60 hasn't changed much due to cars being at least a half ton lighter. Add in our newest technologies like I-Phones, I-Pads, GPS, and all electronic dashboards and it's a wonder more teens aren't killed. New safety technology is the reason why and so do seatbelts. Even if it weren't the law, I wioul still use them. I don't need the government telling me it's better, it just makes good common sense.
      steph3221
      • 1 Year Ago
      How about thge stats of the illieagle imigrants that can get a drivers license without having to go to a driving school.
      harolddundee
      • 1 Year Ago
      These studies should always be taken with a grain of salt.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Using a small pool of data (they used a small pool of data, what would the stats be should they have taken a larger pool of data) collected in the first half of 2012, the Governor's Highway Safety Association said deaths of teen drivers jumped sharply, up 19 percent compared with a year earlier. The numbers reverse a decade-long trend that showed a decrease in teen driving deaths. The GHSA says their data looks solely at how many teens caused their own deaths. (The number of fatalities involving passengers, people in other vehicles or pedestrians should also be included. Out of this increased number of deaths how many took their Driver's Training class ON LINE? On-line course should not be allowed when it comes to educating individuals on how to become a safe and defensive driver! I know for a fact that anyone could be taking the course on-line and its usually not the person who needs to be taking it. A couple of years ago Scobby Doo took an on-line Defensive Driving Class and not only passed the class but received a Certificate at the end of the class, this was in the Atlanta Journal.) Our lawmakers need to put the safety of our teens and communities first instead of putting their own agenda first!
      • 1 Year Ago
      For a while I thought it was guns and cars killing our kids, but now I think it is the kids themselves. Quick Obama, we must put them in guarded institutions until they are 21 to protect them. If we legalize marijuana we will have all of our prisons empty, just think of how safe these will be for our kids. The impact it will have on teen pregnancy will be phenomenal. The kids also won't be available for all of these female teachers to abuse. I'm amazed Feinstein hasn't thought of it!
        ggena
        • 1 Year Ago
        Don't at all understand the purpose of that post, nor the solutions. Sarcasm without any reasonable irony???
        am0714
        • 1 Year Ago
        There are some very good doctors who can help with paranoia......please go see one.
        jwright145
        • 1 Year Ago
        What drugs are you taking? What a dum arse post little child. Never in all my years have I seen such racism in this country, never!!!
        tsh85
        • 1 Year Ago
        There is something seriously wrong with you. You ramble on and on about absolutely nothing, and your assertions are completely irrelevant to the actual story. I honestly feel dumber for having read your post, and that isn't something I can say very often.
        nam2205
        • 1 Year Ago
        Why pick on obama, its Bushes falt.
      joquintana
      • 1 Year Ago
      One word: Texting.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I find this data skewed when it states Texas as having a higher incidence rate, then Delaware and District of Columbia having lower rates. It is deceiving because there is no consideration for the population of these states. A per capita analysis would have been more logical and indicative.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Exactly they just pointed out how many teens were killed without putting their deaths next to the total number of teens driving in those states. Yes those teens lives were precious but to make it necessary for Graduated Licensing just screams monetary ploy based on scaring parents nothing more.
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