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Teen driver fatalities grew last year, reversing downward trend

February 26, 2013|By Jerry Hirsch
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

More teen drivers are dying in traffic accidents.

A state-by-state look at teen driver fatalities by the Governors Highway Safety Assn. found that 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths increased from 202 to 240 during the first half of 2012, a 19% jump from the same period in the previous year.

It marks a reversal in declining teen driver death rates attributed to the introduction of graduated license systems in many states.  Such systems place restrictions – such as the number of passengers allowed in a vehicle - on teen driver licenses that are gradually lifted as the teens age and gain more driving experience. 

The governors' association said the increase mirrored projections by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in which all traffic deaths increased by 8% during the same period.  That’s attributed to increased driving that is a result of an improving U.S. economy.

However, the governors’ group said it was “particularly concerning that 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths appear to have increased at an even greater rate.”

"Based on 2011 final data and the early look at 2012, it appears that we are headed the wrong direction when it comes to deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers," said Allan Williams, the former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and author of the study.

Still, even with the increase, driver death rates in the age group are about half of what they were a decade ago and remain at a historically low level.

"We are still at a much better place than we were 10 or even five years earlier,” Williams said.  “However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year."

ALSO:

Car crash deaths on the rise

Auto sales strong even as gas prices rise

Lawmaker crackdown on distracted teen drivers

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