Report: Number of Teens in Fatal Crashes Plummets

The number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes fell by nearly a third between 2004 and 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today.

The spread of graduated driver licensing, which is now used in 49 states, and increased parental involvement and awareness are reasons for the drop-off, the CDC says. The study tracked the number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes, which means either the teen driver, the driver's passengers or another third party was fatally hurt in an accident caused by the teen. The study shows a 36-percent decline in fatalities from 2004 to 2008.

That fact combines well with the overall long-term decrease in teen vehicular fatalities, which are down more than 50 percent since 1996.

Besides the graduated licenses and increased parental involvement, increased seat belt use and a strong government-led campaign against drunken driving also helped.

In 2009, 33,808 people were killed in vehicle accidents, the lowest level in 60 years, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 17 million American drivers admitted to drinking and driving.

Issues pertaining to teen drivers concern seat belt use — nearly 70% of the 13- to 15-year-olds killed in traffic accidents weren’t wearing seat belts, NHTSA says — as well as distracted driving. Nearly 18% of all teen crashes that resulted in a fatality were due to distracted driving, NHTSA says.

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