Teen driver deaths reported up 19%

distracted teen about to cause traffic accidentTeenage driver deaths are up 19 percent, a new study shows, suggesting that the fatality count for 16- and 17-year old drivers will increase for the second straight year.

The Governors Highway Safety Association statistics compared the first halves of 2011 and 2012. (Annual accident reports typically lag well behind the end of the year.)

The group said that if final data continued the trend, then 2012 would follow 2011 in posting an increase in teen driver deaths. Before 2011, there were eight straight years of decreases.

The GHSA did not indicate distracted driving was a suspect in the increases, although the report’s key image is that of a distracted teen about to plow into another vehicle (top left).

The association said the hike in teen driver deaths “presumably” is related to the recovering economy, which put more young motorists on the road. It also speculated that a loss of momentum in the toughening of states’ Graduated Driver Licensing Systems contributed.

The GHSA long has been ambivalent about efforts to rein in electronic distracted driving, such as the use of cell phones and text messaging. The teen-fatality report suggested that “upgraded passenger restrictions” (under graduated licensing) would be preferable to the electronic device restrictions.

Teens repeatedly have been shown by researchers to be the drivers most likely to text and talk on cell phones.

The GHSA report cited the Highway Loss Data Institute study of 2009 that found no benefit in cell phone and texting laws. That report is widely cited by opponents of distracted driving laws — and has been dismissed by safety advocates including the secretary of Transportation.

The lead researcher on the new GHSA study previously was “chief scientist” at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which includes the Highway Loss Data Institute. He retired before the groups’ disputed 2009 study of distracted driving laws, however.

Last September, the GHSA membership climbed off the fence by supporting bans on handheld cell phone use while driving. Almost all public safety groups and transportation agencies had long been on the record against use of handheld cell phones by drivers.

In 2011, the GHSA issued a survey of others’ research showing “no evidence that cell phone or texting bans have reduced crashes.” It suggested that states hold off on new distracted driving laws, drawing the ire of DOT chief Ray LaHood.

The teen-fatality data came from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The GHSA’s primary membership is of state highway safety officials.

25 states reported increases in teen driver fatalities, 17 had decreases, and eight states and the District of Columbia reported no change.

GHSA chairman Kendell Poole of Tennessee said: “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. … With the advances in technology, we suspect distracted driving deaths among teen drivers are rising.”

Highway deaths linked to distracted driving were up slightly in 2011, an increase that the federal government said reflected better reporting and increased awareness of the problem.

teen driver deaths up in states


  1. Al Cinamon says:

    I am happy to inform everyone on this site that some progress has been made in the area of traffic safety in NY. The DMV and the NYPD have agreed to strike the word accident from its vocabulary. From now on they will be called crashes or collisions. They finally realized that the term accident connotes that no one is at fault. Nothing could be further from the truth. Crashes are avoidable.

  2. Ben Levitan says:

    The only way to stop this is to have the cell phone companies install a block to texting while driving IN THEIR NETWORK. This block can be for only teens and should block sending and receiving text while driving. It’s an easy fix! I act as an expert witness in cases involving cell phones and telecommunications. I don’t ever want to do another case involving deaths due to texting and driving

  3. Jack Treffner says:

    Those officials with their fat well-paid heads in the sand need to wake up to the pandemic of distracted driving – starting with the young.

  4. Al Cinamon says:

    I stand by my earlier posts. No one should be surprised by the uptick in crashes and deaths. That was the plan all along. The report above cites the 2011 survey by the GHSA showing “no evidence that cell phone or texting bans have reduced crashes.” Why would they reduce crashes? With regard to cell phone laws only holding the phone is banned. The real distraction, talking, is allowed. Anti-texting bans just place the device in drivers’ laps forcing them to take their eyes completely off the road.

    I say shame on outgoing Ray LaHood for playing along with hypocritical politicians who pass laws just to fool the public into thinking they’re for safe roads. I nominate Madam Hersman, the current head of the NTSB, to be the new Commissioner. She understands the problem and will hopefully do something about it.

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