Rates of fatalities among teenage drivers, specifically those ages sixteen and seventeen, have declined overall during the past thirteen years, according to a recent report from the Governors' Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The report, which compares preliminary data for the first half of 2012 to data going back to 2000, also shows a recent increase in fatality rates since 2010, although the numbers remain well below the highest rate reached during that time. It stresses the need for graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws and other protections for novice drivers. Connecticut has some of the strongest laws in the country regarding novice drivers, distracted driving, and other issues that may influence teen driving.
The Associated Press reported recently on a cluster of car accidents with teen fatalities around the country that belied the general downward trend. Five teens in the Texas Panhandle were killed during spring break in a collision with a fuel tanker after the teen driver ran a stop sign. Several days later, two pickup truck drivers collided in Indiana after running a four-way stop, killing three. Car crashes in Ohio and Illinois took the lives of ten people total. Despite these recent tragedies, however, the rate of teen driving fatalities nationwide has dropped substantially, before experiencing a slight increase in the past two years.
The AP suggests that GDL laws and other restrictions, such as late-night driving curfews, may account for some of the decade-long improvement in teen driving safety. It also cites researchers who suggest that the internet and other electronic forms of communication have caused teens to make fewer trips by car, since they have less need for “face-to-face visits.” As we have noted on the blog before, however, the use of those electronic communications devices, e.g. cell phones, may also account for increases in the fatality rate.