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Fatal crashes with teen drivers drop

Teen Driver Safety Week

Fatal car crashes involving teen drivers fell by about a third over five years, according to a new federal report that partly credits the drop to tougher state limits on younger drivers.

The number of deaths tied to these accidents fell dramatically from about 2,200 in 2004 to 1,400 in 2008, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The CDC looked at fatal accidents with drivers who were 16 or 17. There were more than 9,600 such incidents during the five-year span and more than 11,000 people died in the crashes.

The rate of these fatal crashes has been declining since 1996. CDC officials credit a range of factors, including safer cars with airbags and highway improvements.

But experts say a chief reason is that most states have been getting tougher, curbing when teens can drive and when they can carry passengers.

"It's not that teens are becoming safer," said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an Arlington-based research group funded by auto insurance companies.

"It's that state laws enacted in the last 15 years are taking teens out of the most hazardous driving situations," such as driving at night or with other teens in the car, he said.

Graduated driver's licensing programs, as they are called, began appearing in 1996 and now 49 states have them. Some are more restrictive than others, which may be one reason why death rates vary by state, Rader said.

The CDC found that Wyoming had the highest death rate, with about 60 traffic fatalities involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers per 100,000 people that age. New York and New Jersey, which have rigorous driving restrictions on teens, had the lowest rates, at about 10 per 100,000.

Wyoming has a graduated driver's licensing program, but it's somewhat lax. For example, younger teens are allowed to drive until 11 p.m., while other states force them off the roads starting at 9 p.m., Rader noted.

The report is being published this week in a CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

-- Associated Press

From the Post's archives:

Nighttime magnifies risks for teen drivers

Motorist fatalities by state

By Michael Bolden  | October 21, 2010; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Traffic Safety  
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Comments

just wait till Virginia gets rid of their ABC stores. Then they'll give Wyoming a run for their money.

Posted by: MarilynManson | October 21, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Graduated licensing programs began in 1996? What was it called when I got my driver's license in New York in the 1980s then, and couldn't drive after 9 PM until I was 18? Fact check much?

Posted by: theitgirl | October 21, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

The map looks a lot like the teenage pregnancy map. Highest rates in the conservative, evangelical South. How's that "Moral" majority working for you .. and your kids???

Posted by: thebobbob | October 23, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

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