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Teen driver deaths increase for the first time in 10 years

A recent study published by the Governor's Highway Safety Association, titled Mission Not Accomplished, analyzed teen driving deaths since 2005. From 2005 to 2014, the number of deaths caused by teen drivers decreased dramatically, from 7,500 in 2005 to 3,885 in 2014. While every traffic death is a tragic event, the overall decrease in deaths was unquestionably a positive trend.

Unfortunately, this positive trend came to a halt in 2015, as teen-related traffic deaths increased 10% in 2015. In addition, overall traffic deaths increased 10% in the first six months relative to the first six months of 2016. As overall traffic deaths have increased, it seems likely that teen traffic deaths will increase in 2016 as well.

What are the reasons behind the increase in teen driver deaths?

One reason for the increase in teen driver deaths is the number of teens on the roads. The percentage of teen drivers on American roads grew roughly 10% from 2012 to 2014. As teens are driving in greater numbers, it makes sense that fatalities would increase.

The number of teen drivers is probably not the only factor, however. Teens are far less likely than adults to get proper amounts of sleep, with only 30 percent of high school students getting the rest they need. Tired drivers are more likely to make poor decisions and have slower reaction times.

Another factor could be the use of smartphones while driving. Too many drivers of all ages use these devices to text, surf the internet or take pictures while driving. When teens commit these actions, however, they may be at greater risk to cause accidents, due to their inexperience on the roads.

What could be done to minimize teen driver accidents?

One suggestion, offered by the authors of the study, is for states to increase the age of a graduated driver's license (GDL) from the age of 18 to the age of 21. Drivers with a GDL are unable to legally drive during late night hours. Currently, New Jersey is the only state that requires GDLs until a driver turns 21.Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the enactment of this law; New Jersey has had fewer teen driver crashes.

It will be worth monitoring teen driving trends going forward to see if this recent increase in deaths is part of a long term trend, or hopefully a blip on the radar. If you have been injured in an accident, or if someone you love has been injured in a traffic accident, it is important to secure the services of experienced legal counsel. People across Bucks County and Montgomery County have relied on the personal injury lawyers of Friedman Schuman.

Sources: Mission Not Accomplished: Teen Safe Driving, the Next Chapter, the Governor's Highway Safety Association, An Alarming 10% Rise in Traffic Deaths in the First Half of 2016, New York Times, by Daniel Victor, October 5, 2016

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