While federal safety regulators are pushing this month to raise awareness about the risks associated with texting while driving, a new report suggests that the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes have actually decreased by more than 50% over the past 10 years.
In the most recent issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, health officials detail the declining number of fatalities among teens behind the wheel.
The report pointed to several factors for the declining teen driver crashes and mortalities, including safer vehicles and implementation of graduated license (GDL) programs among other factors.
The graduated driver licensing programs call for restrictions on teen driving, like at night or restricting teenage passengers, which may be a contributor to the decrease.
The crash risk for any age driver is highest during the first months of independent driving. A study published in 2014 revealed teens are especially at risk of distracted driving, which may result in vehicle crashes and at times, fatalities.
The risk is the highest for the youngest teenage drivers, but graduated licensing reduces the overall crash rate among the youngest drivers by 20% to 40%, according to the report.
“GDL programs are designed to provide teenagers with a protective learning environment through supervised practice driving and by restricting nighttime driving and the number and age of passengers allowed during the first months of independent driving,” the researchers wrote.
Voluntary anonymous surveys of high school teens between 2004 and 2013 revealed the number of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 fatally killed in car accidents dropped 55%, from 5,724 deaths to 2,568.
The survey covered questions pertaining to drinking and driving and texting while driving.
A Number of Factors May Lower Fatalities
The study comes days after another study published earlier this month in the American Journal of Public Health revealed bans on texting while driving may also play a role in lowering teen accident rates. These bans were related to a seven percent reduction in crash-related hospitalizations among drivers of all ages.
Officials say the fact that fewer teens are licensed may also be a contributing factor in the reduction of teen crash fatalities. More adolescents are waiting to get their licenses until they are already 18 years old, while others are driving less for socioeconomic reasons.
Other factors may have also contributed to the drop in crashes, such as vehicle safety features like electronic stability systems that keep the car in line when the driver starts to lose control.
Additionally, most high schools across the country have eliminated drivers education classes, while increases in car insurance and the cost of buying and maintaining a car make driving unaffordable for many families.