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Teen driver deaths rise as licensing programs falter

It's no secret or great revelation that teenage drivers are often the most dangerous, and most endangered, motorists on the road. Their combination of inexperience and frequent distraction at the hands of technology or other passengers frequently turns an otherwise manageable driving situation into a serious, potentially fatal, accident.

New data compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia has now further solidified this common understanding. Across the entire nation, Tennessee included, teen driver traffic fatalities rose 19 percent in the first half of 2012 when compared to the same portion of 2011.

According to the association's report, 240 16 and 17-year-olds in the first half of last year lost their lives on the road, up from 202 in 2011's same time frame. Teen driver deaths rose 3 percent over all of 2011, and if later data from the end of 2012 holds with this current trend, the year will mark the second consecutive rise in teen car and truck accident deaths after what had previously been a long decline.

Experts from both the GHSA and National Safety Council have noted that recent improvements in the nation's economy can likely be taken as an attributing factor in this case. Teens typically have less disposable income than older drivers, and in times of economic success more young motorists are able to both pay for gas and in need of getting to work by way of driving.

Perhaps more troubling is the additional appraisal of states' graduated driver licensing programs as being widely deficient in their preparation of teenagers for safe driving on America's roadways. The Vice President of the NSC specifically noted that not a single state meets the council's "best-practice GDL laws."

In response to the nerve-racking new numbers, the director of the GHSA specifically noted that Tennessee has gone to great lengths to keep teen drivers safe. However, national statistics seem to paint a more harrowing picture. It is only more tragic when these general statistics become a specific reality, and those who have been injured or lost a loved one in an auto accident should immediately contact an experienced legal professional.

Source: USA Today, "Deaths surge among youngest drivers," Larry Copeland, Feb. 26, 2013

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