The Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit that represents state and local road safety offices in all 50 states, reports that deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers increased 19 percent in the first six months of 2012 compared with the first six months of 2011.
The report, which is based on a survey of GHSA members, found that 25 states reported an increase in 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths, while 17 states saw decreases. Eight states and the District of Columbia saw no changes.
Cars.com says the report is particularly unsettling as summer is the deadliest time of year for teen drivers, with eight teens dying in traffic accidents every day between the Memorial and Labor Day holidays.
Dr. Allan Williams, who completed the report for the GHSA, says that despite the increase, “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.” He also speculates that the increase in fatalities after years of decreases is due to graduated licensing laws. The impact of laws, which place limits on teen drivers and have been in place in most states for several years, may be leveling off.
Teens aren't the only age group seeing an increase in traffic deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that traffic fatalities for all age groups increased 7.1 percent in the first nine months of 2012, compared with the first nine months of 2011. Despite the increase, NHTSA says that the traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2012 are still 26 percent less than the same period in 2005.
The GHSA says that parental involvement is key to keeping teen drivers safe. In a separate press release, the GSHA says, "Moms and dads play a critical role in helping teens survive their most dangerous driving years." The GSHA has released a report, available at http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/teens/sfteens13.html, which looks at how parents can help keep their teens safe behind the wheel. Suggestions from the report include supporting graduate licensing, supervising teen driver education and having a parent/teen driving agreement.
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