WASHINGTON, February 26 (RIA Novosti) - Traffic deaths of teen drivers in the United States increased sharply in the first six months of 2012, according to a report released Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit traffic safety advocacy group.
“We know from research and experience that teen drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but also a danger to others on the roadways. So these numbers are a cause for concern,” said Kendell Poole, Chairman of GHSA and Director of the Tennessee Highway Safety Office.
The figures show deaths of 16 and 17-year-old drivers rose 19 percent, with 202 driving deaths in the first half of 2011 compared to 240 in the same period of 2012. Deaths of 16-year-old drivers showed the biggest increase.
GHSA points to three possible reasons for the increase: distracted driving, like talking on a cell phone or texting; a stronger economy which has led to an increase in teen driving overall; and a drop in states that have strengthened their Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, which allow young drivers to gradually achieve full driving privileges.
The 2012 figures are lower than they were 10 years ago when teenage fatalities peaked at 544 in the first six months of 2002. But the recent jump marks the second straight year for an increase in teen driver deaths after an eight-year decline.
“Based on 2011 final data and the early look at 2012, it appears that we are headed in the wrong direction when it comes to deaths of 16 and 17-year-old drivers,” said Allan Williams, a researcher and former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who completed the report for GHSA.
The report is based on preliminary data supplied by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
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