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Teen Driving Statistics Say Teen Driver Deaths Increased in 2011

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The Governors Highway Safety Association reported that in the first half of 2011, the teen driving death rate rose 11 percent. The first increase in eight years. This is troubling information for parents who strive to keep our teens safe while they are driving. It is even more troubling given the fact that states have adopted graduated driver's license programs and parents are paying much more money these days for kids to qualify for their licenses.

According to the press release, Dr. Allen Williams - a researcher who formerly served as chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety - attributes much of the increase to the fact that the benefit of state Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws may be leveling off, as most of these laws have been in place for some time. Additionally, Dr. Williams speculates that improving economic conditions are contributing to an increase in teen driving, thus increasing their exposure to risk. Dr. Williams notes, "While it is not a surprise that these numbers are stabilizing or slightly increasing, states should not accept these deaths as something that cannot be prevented. More work can and should be done to save teen lives."

Parents should be aware of how their teen acts on the road, unfortunately, this isn't the case as even mature teens throw caution to the wind when they get behind the wheel. Teens see the freedom of driving to be a rite of passage as opposed to just a way to get from one place to another.

The current scope of the statistics are as follows:

  • Deaths of 16-year-old drivers increased from 80 to 93 (16 percent),
  • deaths of 17-year-olds went from 110 to 118 (7 percent),
  • which is a cumulative increase of 11 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a statistical projection suggesting that total motor vehicle deaths(all ages) for the first six months of 2011 would be 0.9 percent lower than in the first six months of 2010. It is a concern if teen driver deaths are running counter to trends in other motor vehicle deaths as that could bring the numbers up for all age groups as time goes on. However, it is not necessarily surprising that the decline in 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths may be halting. The declines have been steep, much greater than in the case of older drivers, and the number of deaths in the first half of 2011, although higher than in 2010, is still substantially lower than in the first half of 2009.

I don't think parents want to scrap the graduated driver's license programs. They have had great benefits as the fatality rate for teens in car crashes has declined. But I think we should look further into why there are more deaths recently, find more concrete answers. Perhaps getting to the heart of the teen drug use and abuse matter might help, for instance?

I urge parents to keep the lines of communication open and make the rules clear for your teen. Don't be afraid to take the keys from your teenager if they aren't following the limits you have set. If you need help, you can use things like Ford's MYKEY System or DriveCam. You can make a difference in how your teen drives. In fact, their safety may depend on it.

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