BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There is a disturbing trend involving teen drivers. A sharp increase in fatalities has highway officials wondering why.

Tim Williams has more.

Deaths of younger teen drivers increased sharply in the first six months of 2012. It reverses a decade-long trend followed by state highway safety officials.

“Because it certainly relates to teens, it’s obviously a concern to us,” said Ragina Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The study was conducted by the governor’s Highway Safety Association. Preliminary data indicates overall, 16 and 17-year-old driver deaths increased from 202 to 240, a 19 percent jump.

AAA Mid-Atlantic weighs in on the findings.

“While there were significant strides across the country and certainly here in Maryland to strengthen graduated driver’s licensing laws, we haven’t seen much movement in the past few years so that’s probably one of the reasons why we’re sort of seeing a leveling off,” Averella said.

The study surveyed fatality numbers for every state and D.C. All traffic deaths increased by eight percent but it is particularly concerning that teen driver deaths appear to have increased at an even greater rate.

Researchers stress that while the news is certainly not good, deaths in this age group remain at a historically low-level compared to five or 10 years ago.

“Even when they’re beyond the period where they don’t need a parent in the car, parental involvement remains key,” Averella said.

Traditionally, distractions like texting and the number of passengers have contributed to teen accidents. With three or more passengers, teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

The hope is that the next update will show a trend toward lower numbers.

For more information on this study, click here.

Tim Williams


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