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Teen Driving Fatalities Drop Sharply

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on October 22, 2010 2:51 PM

FindLaw's Injured blog is dedicated to tracking the latest news in personal injury and tort laws. Needless to say, a lot of the coverage can be on the sad side.

Not this time.

The latest news from the US Department of Health has a positive headline: teen driving fatalities drop sharply in the last five years.

Teen driving fatalities dropped almost one third over the last five years, according to a report produced by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention. The report looked at drivers aged 16 or 17, and found the number of teen driving fatalities had dropped from 2,200 in 2004 to 1,400 in 2008. Although there has been a sharp decline in the last five years, the report notes that the numbers have been on a downward slope since 1996.

"It's not that teens are becoming safer. It's that state laws enacted in the last fifteen years are taking teens out of the most hazardous driving situations, such as driving at night or with other teens in the car," Russ Rader, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman, told The Associated Press.

Forty nine states have some form of a graduated driver's license program that serves to limit a young driver's ability to drive at the most accident prone times and conditions.

New York and New Jersey (which are tied for the lowest death rates in the US), have the strictest versions of the program -- limiting a teen's ability to drive until he or she is 17 and 18, respectively. Wyoming has the highest death rate, according to the report. 

The Los Angeles Daily News reports there may be another factor at play: the recession. Simply put, the lack of financial resources is causing people, and especially teens, to drive less. Whatever the reason, the decline in teen driving fatalities is a welcome report that will hopefully continue to decline, with or without the help of teen drivers themselves.

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