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Teen driver deaths up in 2012, danger remains

Earlier this week we discussed how some people in Tennessee and elsewhere incorrectly assume that young drivers are always at fault for accidents that they are involved in. This is not always the case, but some new figures from a respected organization shows that teen driver deaths are up.

According to the report, released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers increased by 19 percent in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011. The deaths jumped from 202 to 240 during that period.

The sudden jump in fatal car accidents involving teen drivers is alarming. The increase in teen driver deaths outpaces the increase in total traffic deaths, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to NHTSA, an improving economy means more people are spending more time driving again, which means more accidents are likely to unfold.

Many have pointed to the use of graduated licensing programs in most states as the reason that teen driver fatalities had been declining in previous years. Under those programs, teens are gradually given more driving freedom through the years.

It should be noted, however, that despite the increase, driver deaths among 16 and 17-year-olds are still 50percent less than what they were 10 years ago, so it appears that over the long term the graduated license programs have had a positive effect. So it's likely too early to tell what caused the increase, but it should be noted that teen drivers continue to be one of the more dangerous groups of drivers on the road. Continuous training and experience is needed.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Teen driver fatalities grew last year, reversing downward trend," Jerry Hirsch, Feb. 26, 2013

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