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Number of teen driver fatalities may be on the rise in Florida

Generally speaking, teen drivers are more likely to get into car accidents than drivers who have been behind the wheel for years. Legislators, safety officials and those in law enforcement have tried to reduce the number of teen deaths related to car accidents by enacting measures like graduated licensing laws. A recent study shows that after years of progress, teen driver deaths may be on the rise in Florida and elsewhere in the nation.

According to a recent report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of teen driver deaths in the country increased in the first six months of 2011. If the trend continues, last year will be the first in just under a decade where teen driver deaths have not declined. During the first half of last year there were 211 deaths among drivers ages 16 to 17. In 2010, there were 190 teen driver deaths during the same time period. The difference translates into an 11 percent increase.

The increase comes as a surprise to those who have been working to reduce teen car accident fatalities over the last decade. In 1995, there were over 1,000 deaths among 16- and 17-year-old drivers and in 2010 there were 408 deaths. Although there may be an overall increase, statistics vary among states. A majority of states reported an increase in the number of teen driver deaths and Florida was among them. Nineteen states still reported decreases and the statistics of eight states remained the same.

Experts attribute the possible increase in teen driver deaths to changes in the economy and to diminishing returns from graduated licensing laws. Since the economic downturn in 2008, experts believe the costs of driving have kept some teenagers off of the road. The recent upturn may allow more teens to drive, which would also increase their exposure to risk. In addition, the benefits of graduated licensing laws may be flattening out.

To reduce the risk of accidents, teen drivers should continue to build experience under the supervision of experienced drivers.

Source: The New York Times, "Fatalities among teenage drivers rose in first half of 2011, study finds," Tanya Mohn, Feb. 16, 2012


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