Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
After compiling data from just the first six months of 2012, researchers have already noticed an uptick in the number of highway fatalities across America´s roadways. Most upsetting about these figures are the numbers of teenage fatalities.
According to a new study from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the teenage fatality increase was “dramatic” from January to June of 2012, jumping by 19 percent. It reported that 240 teenage drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 died on America´s highways during the six-month period, up from 202 the during the same time period in 2011.
The information was compiled by Dr. Allan Williams, in a first-of-its-kind study on teenage traffic accident deaths on a state-by-state basis. Dr. Williams found his data confirmed an earlier prediction by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which expected all traffic deaths to increase by as much as 8 percent.
All told, 25 states (including Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Oregon) reported an increase in fatalities of 16- and 17-year olds while 17 states (including California, Florida, Idaho and Texas) reported a decrease in these deaths. Eight states, including the District of Columbia, reported flat numbers with no change.
“We are still at a much better place than we were 10 or even five years earlier,” explained Dr. Williams in a statement. “However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year.”
Speaking to USA Today, Dr. Williams claims a recovering economy may be partially responsible for this rise in traffic deaths amongst the youngest drivers.
Teenagers famously have a disposable income, and when these drivers have more money in their pocket, they´re more likely to hit the road, said Dr. Williams. When we were in an economic downturn, these kids had less money and therefore were less likely to drive.
He also suspects state governments have become lax in their graduated driver licensing [GDL] laws, which give teen drivers more privileges as they earn more experience behind the wheel.
“We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of GDL, but a lot of states still have programs that are somewhat weak,” said Dr. Williams. “We need to pay more attention to the things that we know work.”
Kendell Poole, the chairman of the GHSA, claims there may be another factor to consider in the rise of teenage traffic fatalities.
“In my state of Tennessee, we have worked extensively to keep teen drivers safe,” said Poole in the statement. “Despite our efforts, teens remain our most vulnerable population. With the advances in technology, we suspect distracted driving deaths among teen drivers are rising.”
It is important to note these conclusions are being drawn from preliminary data. Yet, other GHSA executives are already concerned this early data is but a precursor to an even more significant rise in teen deaths over last year.