Why teen driving deaths have tumbled to historic lows
Traffic fatalities are hitting record lows for all drivers, but the drop among teen drivers is especially important, given that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teens.
(Page 2 of 2)
Additionally, far more teens are waiting past their 16th birthday to get a driver’s license. Data from the Federal Highway Administration indicate that some 30.7 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, compared with 44.7 percent in 1998.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
One reason for this decline could be that traditional driver’s education courses for new drivers are becoming less available. Many high schools are increasingly rolling back formal driver training because of funding shortages, according to officials at the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina. This means families who want a driving course must scrounge up $300 to $700 for private driving schools. Generally, after age 18, states do not require new drivers to undergo any formal instruction.
What’s more, the economic downturn has been credited – or blamed – for a sharp drop in the number miles driven overall by Americans in recent years. Of particular importance for teens, however, is that families have undoubtedly blocked would-be drivers from getting behind the wheel by cutting back on car insurance and gas expenses.
“We suspect the economy has reduced teen drivers,” says Mr. Adkins of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. “Teens are optional drivers, and any time you have financial strain, you cut optional expenses across the board, so that may be another reason why fewer teens are dying.”
Still, concern about distracted driving among teens when they finally do get a driver’s license is high. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported this week that the chance of teenage drivers dying in a crash increases significantly with every additional teenage passenger in the car.
Conversely, a new survey released the same day by Consumer Reports also found that drivers ages 16 to 21 are less likely to want to talk on the phone, text, or engage in other dangerous distracted driving if they bring a friend along for the ride.
Whatever the case, experts say there’s no magic bullet to getting rid of the problem entirely, especially since there’s always a new crop of teen drivers every year.
“It’s absolutely outrageous and unacceptable that more than 3,000 teens are dying on the road every year,” says Hamilton of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “We need to continue to make more progress by strengthening graduated licensing laws, driver’s education, and getting parents more involved in their teen’s transition behind the wheel and onto the road.”