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Teenage car accident fatalities up sharply

Those who are growing up in the Boston area might not fully understand it just yet, but the teen years are one of life's most fun, carefree times. But those years can also be dangerous times, as a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association indicates.

Fatalities among teen drivers in car accidents soared 19 percent in the first half of last year, according to the report.

That increase is more than double the rise in traffic deaths overall, the report states. In the first six months of 2012, 240 teen drivers ages 16 and 17 had their lives ended in accidents. In 2011, the figure was 202 such fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says traffic fatalities overall were up eight percent in that time.

If the increase holds up when statistics are released for the second half of 2012, it will mark a second year in a row in which teen driver deaths rose. In 2011, teenage fatalities went up three percent over the previous year. That increase ended nearly a decade of declines in the rate.

A highway safety consultant who compiled the data says he thinks the jump in teenage driver deaths is likely the result of an improving economy (which means more drivers on the roads) and a flattening out of the safety gains made in states that implemented graduated drivers' license programs for teens.

The programs grant teens incremental increases in driving freedoms as they gain experience behind the wheel.

The safety consultant didn't mention an item that has gotten a lot of press coverage in recent years: the proliferation of mobile electronics in the hands of young drivers. Experts have long urged teens (and everyone else) to put down their cell phones while they're driving.

Anyone injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver or anyone else driving inappropriately should discuss the specifics of the crash with an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how the law can be used to protect accident victims.

Source: WLTX-TV, "Deaths Surge Among Teen Drivers," Larry Copeland, Feb. 26, 2013

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