After years of steady decline, the number of teenagers killed in traffic crashes is once again rising. According to a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of 16 and 17 year old driver deaths increased by 19% in the first six months of 2012. All traffic deaths have increased by 8% in the same time period, making it an even greater concern that teen deaths are rising at an even faster rate than that of older adults.
Among drivers younger than age 20, notable declines in driver deaths began to occur in 2003 and the declines greatly accelerated from 2007 to 2010. Some of the decline may have been due to improved vehicle design, the economic decline, high gas prices, graduated driver licensing which extends the learning period and allows for more supervised on road driving practices as well as restrictions on night time driving and driving with young passengers, as well as teens increased use of social media as a primary means of interacting with friends.
The recent upturn in teen deaths indicates that renewed efforts are needed to reduce the number of teen fatalities on the road. One issue that may be impacting the recent increase in driver deaths may be the distraction caused by cell phones, texting and other interactive technology available in cars. To cut down on distracted driving ten states now ban talking on hand held devices and 39 states ban texting while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. New technology including vehicles that detect if a driver is getting drowsy, inflatable backseat seat belts and tire pressure monitoring systems that will become standard on more cars in the near future will hopefully help reduce deaths on the road.
Because parents have the greatest influence on their teen’s behavior, it is important that parents set a good example, and continuously talking with their teen about safe driving. The sense of invincibility teens tend to have works against them behind the wheel. Safe driving needs to be repeatedly reinforced as one means of preventing more tragedy.