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Teen Car Accident Deaths Fall to Record Lows

Authorities are crediting tougher laws and improved vehicle technology for a significant decrease in fatal car accidents involving teenage drivers. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of teenage deaths related to car accidents has declined by over 30 percent over the last five years.

In 2008, there were 1,400 deaths resulting from accidents involving drivers who were either 16 or 17 years old. This is a sharp decrease from 2004, when there were 2,200 such fatalities. In sum, over the five-year period, there were more than 9,600 such accidents with 11,000 deaths.

The decline in teenage deaths began in 1996 with the introduction of graduated driver's licensing programs. Currently, 49 U.S. states have such programs. In addition, most states have passed tougher laws regarding teenage drivers, restricting when teenagers can drive and how many passengers they can carry. According to Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these restrictions are the primary reason for the decrease in fatalities. It's not that teenagers are driving more safely, he said, "it's that state laws enacted in the last 15 years are taking teens out of the most hazardous driving situations."

According to the study, two-thirds of 16- to 17-year old drivers involved in fatal car accidents were male. In 37 percent of the accidents reported, the teen driver suffered a fatality, while 31 percent of accidents caused the death of the driver's passenger. 18 and 7 percent of fatalities were drivers and passengers in other vehicles, respectively, while an additional 7 percent were bicyclists and pedestrians.

The CDC says that parental involvement is an essential factor in continuing the downward trend of teen traffic fatalities, and the agency is launching a campaign titled "Parents are the Key" to keep parents informed about their role in preventing accidents and fatalities. "Proven measures, including graduated driver's licenses and parental involvement, can reduce the toll of deaths and injuries among teen drivers and protect the lives of others who share the road with these new drivers," said Dr. Grant Baldwin, director of the CDC's injury prevention and control center.

Source: Red Orbit, "Research Sees Decline in Fatal Teen Crashes", 22 October 2010

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