Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

Study: fatal teen car crashes down, younger teens safer

On October 12, the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report analyzing 10 years of data related to teen driver safety. The good news: teen driver-involved accidents have gone down significantly. However, the researchers feel that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to continue saving young lives.

Although much progress has been made, teen drivers are still 1.6 times more likely than adults to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident, and teen motor vehicle accident deaths spiked 10 percent in 2015, which is the first increase in deaths since 2006.

Younger teens driving better than older teens

Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, or FARS, the GHSA has found that young teens (ages 15 to 17) and older teens (ages 18 to 20) differ in their amounts of improvements. For instance, teen-involved accident rates have improved for young teens, but have improved less for older teens.

The difference between younger and older teens, according to the study, may be due to the availability of safe driving programs, like Ford's Driving Skills for Life. Many younger teens benefit from the available programs, but some officials are hoping to extend the programs to 18 - 21 year olds, rather than just up to age 18.

Graduated Driver Licensing programs across the country also lead teens through three stages to become licensed, which has shown to reduce motor accidents for teens by 30 percent - however, these programs end at age 18 as well. An estimated one in three teens aren't licensed to drive by age 18, so they aren't able to gain the knowledge and reap the benefits connected to these driving safety programs which cut off at 18.

Warning signs: what to do to protect teens

The uptick in teen motor vehicle deaths last year, whether from younger or older teens, is definitely a cause for concern. The rise may have something to do with the rise in motor vehicle fatalities overall in 2015: deaths rose 8 percent from 2016, which is the biggest increase in 50 years. Even the first six months of 2016 have shown a nine percent increase in deaths as compared to the first half of 2015.

More driver safety programs and awareness should help American teens learn to be better drivers. On top of the necessary education needed across the country, it's imperative that we teach our teens to stop distracted driving - 64 percent of the 2.5 million traffic accidents every year involve a cell phone.

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