Teen Crashes Decline

Thursday, October 21, 2010 - 2:21pm

Report finds fatal auto crashes involving teens fell by more than a third over five year period.

Even though teens are far more likely than more experienced drivers to cause car accidents the number of fatal crashes involving teenage drivers has been falling.

A driver's license might mean teens know how to read road signs, but the ability to gauge the speed of other cars or manage slick roads only comes with practice.

Even so, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control finds the number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in deadly crashes has dropped significantly, 36-percent over a five year period.

While it's true roads and cars are safer than ever, the CDC largely attributes the decrease to state laws involving graduated licensing programs.

The laws vary between states, but all essentially slow down the rate at which teens are able to drive, often starting with a learner's permit period where teens can only drive with adults.

After a road test they can drive by themselves with certain restrictions.

"When they do start driving on their own, it's not late at night, it's not with as many teen passengers as they used to have," points out AAA's Justin McNaull.

McNaull says teen passengers greatly increase the risk for accidents because they often don't quiet down when road conditions become dangerous.

"They're not aware of what the drivers needs are, so even if they're not trying to be distracting, they still are," McNaull says.

While a driver's license can't buy maturity, experts say teen driving restrictions are buying valuable time and saving lives in the process.

Geography is also a factor.

Urban states like New York have fewer deadly auto accidents involving teen drivers than rural states like Wyoming.

While rural states tend to have more lenient graduated licensing programs, the CDC also points out they often have tougher terrain and when crashes do occur medics might not be able to arrive fast enough.

North Dakota is the only state without a graduated licensing program.

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