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A scary new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association indicates that highway fatalities involving teens in the United States increased by 19 percent during the first half of 2012. Overall, highway fatalities increased by 8 percent during the same time period.
The report indicated that there were 240 highway fatalities involving drivers ages 16 and 17 during the first half of last year, which was an increase from 202 fatal car accidents involving the demographic during the first half of 2011.
In 2011, highway fatalities involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers increased by 3 percent, ending an eight-year stretch of declines in teen driving fatalities. If the data from the second half of 2012 looks anything like the data from the first half of the year, it appears the pattern will continue in 2012.
An independent highway safety consultant who was hired by the Governors Highway Safety Association to compile the data said a couple factors are probably to blame for the most recent increased in teen highway fatalities.
First, he said an improving economy means that more drivers are on the roads, which leads to increased highway fatalities among all demographics. Additionally, he said teen drivers are among the most likely to stop driving during a down economy, which could be a reason for the recent spike in teen fatalities.
Additionally, the safety consultant said that many states saw dramatic declines in teen driving fatalities after implementing graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs, but those effects are starting to flat line. He said states can address this by revamping their GDL programs to make sure that goals are being met.
Pennsylvania is a state that has developed several special requirements for 16- and 17-year-old junior license holders, including a driving curfew, passenger limit and mandatory sanctions. What if anything else should be done to once again lower teen highway fatalities?
Source: WLTX-TV, “Deaths Surge Among Teen Drivers,” Larry Copeland, Feb. 26, 2013