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Number of teens dying in car accidents continues to rise

Most parents have a difficult time handing over the car keys to their teenage children for the first few months after receiving that long-awaited driver's license, and New York and New Jersey families are no exception. It's natural for parents to worry about what might happen after their son or daughter leaves the driveway -- both to the teen and the car itself. Kids themselves are likely to brush off that concern as paranoia or overprotection, but some startling new car accident statistics suggest that parents have reason to be concerned.

The Governors Highway Safety Association recently announced that fatalities of drivers ages 16 and 17 increased in the first half of 2012. Deaths of 17-year-old drivers went up by 15 percent, and 16-year-old driver deaths went up by 24 percent, as compared to an increase of 5 percent for drivers of all ages. If the numbers continue in this upward trend, 2012 would be the second straight year that teen driver deaths increased. The findings are especially significant because previous to 2011, which saw a 3 percent increase in deaths of teen drivers, these deaths were on an eight-year decline.

What's causing this sudden rise? Safety and insurance experts have a few different theories. One concerns graduated driver's license programs, which place restrictions on younger, less experienced drivers. For example, GDL drivers in New Jersey are prohibited from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and may not use mobile devices while driving. They also have limits on the number and type of passengers they can carry. New York's teen driver laws are even tighter, restricting the number of hours teens can drive without a supervisor. Some safety consultants say the impact of these restrictions has reached a waning point, and that many states' GDL laws aren't stringent enough.

Another factor may be the economy. Teenagers, who are less likely to drive when they don't have disposable income, may be driving more as the economy improves. And the more teens there are on the road, the more accidents they're having.

Teen drivers don't just put themselves at risk, however. Other motorists may suffer the effects of these statistics by becoming involved in car accidents with these less experienced drivers. While the increase in teen driver deaths may worry parents, all of us out on the road should be paying close attention.

Source: WLTX.com, "Deaths Surge Among Teen Drivers," Derry London, Feb. 26, 2013

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