Report: Teen Driver Deaths Rose for First Time in 8 Years
A report released on Thursday shows that the number of deaths for 16- and 17-year-old drivers of passenger vehicles increased by 11% in the first six months of 2011. The report, by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), is based on preliminary data provided by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a GHSA press release says, “If the trend continued for the second half of 2011, it will mark the end of eight straight years of cumulative declines in deaths for this age group.”
Tanya Mohn, writing for The New York Times’ Wheels blog, quotes Dr. Allan Williams, a road safety consultant and the former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Williams, who prepared the report said:
‘What’s remarkable is that in the last few years, deaths in those age groups plummeted, so even a slight reverse is a matter of concern,’ he said.
The historical decrease in driver deaths among this age group has been pronounced. In 1995, there were 1,015 recorded deaths among 16- and 17-year-old drivers, whereas in 2010, there were 408 deaths. […]
According to Thursday’s report, total deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers increased to 211 in the first half of 2011 from 190 in the period a year earlier…
Data for the second half of 2011 will be released in coming months. Mohn reports that Dr. Williams said that although the conclusion was preliminary, past analyses indicated more road fatalities occurred in the second half of the year than in the first half. Among all motor vehicle drivers, deaths declined 0.9% during the first six months of 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s projections.
Dr. Williams told The New York Times that the increase in traffic fatalities for teen drivers could be partly due to the upturn in the economy, which made it possible for them to afford gasoline and a driver’s license, which they might not have had the money for before. Another reason, he said, could be that the benefits of graduated driver licensing laws (DLLs) could be leveling off. Dr. Williams said the DLLs could be improved by strengthening restrictions on the number of passengers in a vehicle and on night driving.
The GHSA press release mentions other ideas for ways to improve safety for teen drivers. GHSA’s chairman, Troy E. Costales, said: “As parents, we must set and enforce strict rules for our new drivers, making sure risks are minimized. This includes limiting other teens in the car, limiting nighttime driving and absolutely prohibiting any type of cell phone or electronic device use while driving.”
And Barbara Harsha, Executive Director of GHSA, said states could use federal support to save more teen lives. As part of the upcoming highway reauthorization bill, Congress should provide financial incentives to states that have strengthened or will strengthen teen driving laws, she said. “Additionally, Congress should provide adequate funding so that NHTSA can research and support demonstration projects to determine the most effective ways to increase teen seat belt use and compliance with GDL laws. Congress also should fund NHTSA and the states to carry out distracted driving campaigns aimed at teen drivers,” Harsha said. She added, “Research also needs to be done to determine the impact of changing school start times so that teens are less likely to be driving fatigued.”
You can see the full report at www.ghsa.org.