FILED IN: Safety

New study shows teen driver deaths on the rise

Photo: Peter Suneson

A new study by a national highway safety group suggests a trend of increasing fatalities among American teen drivers.

The number of 16-year-old and 17-year-old driver deaths jumped 11 percent for the first six months of 2011, according to the report released last week by the Governors Highway Safety Association. The total death toll was 211 in those age groups, up by 21 from the same time period in 2010.

While the increase was mild, it comes on the heels of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report that indicated overall driver deaths decreased 0.9 percent in that time.

The GHSA preliminary study only compiled data from the first half of 2011, when traffic fatalities usually occur less than during summer vacation months. If the trend continues, it will mark the first increase of driver deaths for that age group in eight years. The No. 1 cause of death for teenagers is already automobile accidents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Allan Williams, a highway-safety consultant who completed the research, attributed the increase to an improving economy, which means more teens on the road, and the leveling off of the initial benefits from states’ Graduated Driver Licensing laws.

“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,”  Williams said in a GHSA statement.

In another statement, Peter Kissinger, president of AAA Foundation for Traffic Foundation for Traffic Safety, cautioned against jumping to conclusions based on the study.

“If you’re looking at six months’ worth of data, you’ve got to be careful about trying to draw global conclusions,”  he said.