Teen driver deaths increase during 2012

After several years of consistent declines in teen driver deaths, it appears that the trend is reversing, according to a recently released report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The report examined car accident data (the study excluded bicycle and pedestrian accident data) collected by all 50 states for the first six months of 2012. According to the data, 25 states reported increases in 16 and 17-year-old driver deaths (including Massachusetts), 17 reported decreases and eight states reported no change.

Overall, the number of young drivers who died in the first half of 2012 increased 19 percent over the same time period in 2011, climbing from 202 to 240. This is the highest rate of increase among drivers of all age groups during this time period. According to the report's researchers, if the same trend continues in the second half of 2012, it would reverse eight consecutive years of decline.

Why is the trend reversing?

According to Dr. Alan Williams, the report's author, there are two explanations for the increase in teen driver deaths. The first reason is the improving economic conditions. During the more difficult economic times, the price of gas, a car or other driving-related costs may have discouraged teens from driving. However, the recovering economy has given teenagers more discretionary income, encouraging them to return to the roads, which increases their exposure to risk.

In addition, Dr. Williams suspects that the increase may be due to a leveling-off effect of graduated driver licensing laws. These laws, which restrict risky activities for teen drivers, such as driving at night or with friends in the car, have been in place in many states since the 1990s. Therefore, the maximum beneficial effect that such laws provide may have been reached.

Although there may not be a clear reason for the recent jump in teen driver fatalities, studies show that teen drivers in general are more likely to be involved in car accidents-about seven times more per mile driven, according to AAA. Part of the reason is that they are more likely to engage in inherently risky activities such as distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers under 25 are three times more likely to send or receive a text message while driving.

Consult an attorney

If you have been injured by a careless driver of any age, you may be entitled to recover damages for your medical bills and loss of income. Contact an experienced car accident attorney to learn more about your right to compensation.