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Data shows teen auto fatalities continuing to rise. What’s to blame?

Teens have always been regarded as high-risk drivers. Inexperience coupled with data have proven that teen auto accident injuries and fatalities are higher than any other age group.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, teen drivers age 16-19 years old are three times more likely to die in auto accidents than drivers age 20 and older. And, unfortunately, new data shows that teen motor vehicle fatalities are steadily increasing year by year.

Teen vehicle accident data

According to information provided by the Governor’s Highway Association-a non-profit organization that facilitates highway safety programs-in 2011, teen deaths of those 16 and 17 years of age rose 3 percent from 2010.

And, for the first half of 2012, (the most recent data available) teen deaths rose even more from 2011 – an astounding 19 percent. Specifically, for the first half of 2012, there were 240 car accidents involving 16- and 17-year-olds. In 2001, during the same period, there were 212.

There is no mistake in the trend; teen auto accident deaths are continuing to increase every year.

Reasons behind the continued increase

One safety consultant attributes the rise in teenage auto accident deaths to two factors.

He argues that one reason is due to the upswing in the economy. When individuals are out of work with very little expendable income, they tend to not drive as much. Teens, who have even less disposable income during economic downturns, will drive even less. Therefore, fewer teen drivers mean fewer chances of auto accidents. Since the economy is improving, more teens are on the roads and the risks of vehicle accidents increase.

Another reason for the rise, he says, is due to lenient, teen-graduated driver licensing programs in various states.

Graduated drivers licensing laws, or GDL laws as they are known, have been implemented in all 50 states. They are programs that allow teens, or newly acquired drivers’ licensees, to gradually gain driving experience by going through three distinct graduated driver licensing stages before being given full driving privileges. Each stage has various restrictions and requirements including number of passengers allowed, the time of day allowed to drive, and the use of mobile devices to name a few.

However, the age limitations and restrictions in each state vary. Some states have weaker GDL laws than others. For instance, some states have no limitations on nighttime driving for teens in the GDL program. This increases the risk of auto accidents.

More is needed

It remains to be seen what the teen auto accident fatalities figures will be for 2013. Given the pattern, however, it’s likely that they will increase. It’s obvious more is needed to combat the problem. Some argue that the rise in the use of mobile devices like texting behind the wheel is a major distraction and culprit to these accidents and that states need to pass more stringent laws.

However, in the wake of developing technology, it’s possible auto manufactures may step up and create new vehicle technology in future cars to help prevent accidents caused by using distracting cellphones.