Getting a driver’s license is a teenage rite of passage. But car accidents also are the leading cause of deaths for New York teenagers, claiming the lives of roughly 73 teenagers aged 15 to 19 annually.
That ireflects a distressing upward trend in teenage traffic fatalities. According to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association, there was an 11 percent increase in fatalities of teenage drivers (16 and 17-year-olds) between the first half of 2010 and that of 2011. In the first half of 2010 there were 190 recorded teenage driver deaths compared to 211 the first half of 2011. If the numbers hold after data is analyzed for the rest of 2011, the increase will break up a streak of eight straight years of declining teenage driver fatalities.
There are a number of possible explanations for the cause of the increase. One likely explanation is related to the economy. During the economic downturn, fewer teenagers may have been driving because they could not afford the costs of obtaining a driver’s license, purchasing vehicle insurance and paying for gas to drive their cars. But with the improvements to the economy over the past few years there was very likely an increase in the number of teenagers that began driving with more regularity. Therefore, larger numbers of teenagers were likely exposed to the risks associated with driving.
Another cause of the increase may be the “leveling off” of the effect of graduated driver licensing laws. Graduated driver licensing laws require that new drivers go through some form of driver’s education program to gain safe driving experience before they can obtain a driver’s license. Graduated driver license programs typically have three stages: learner, intermediate and full driver privilege. Other related graduated driver licensing laws restrictions include:
Increasing driver education programs and requiring stronger compliance with New York State graduated driver licensing laws could help reduce teenage traffic fatalities. Certainly, steps must be taken to halt this disturbing trend and the tragic loss of life represented by every statistic.
Source: New York Times, “Fatalities Among Teenage Drivers Rose in First Half of 2011, Study Finds,” by Tanya Mohn, feb. 16, 2012.