Teen Auto Fatalities Decline


Just recently a friend and I were discussing the fact that we lived to get grown. She had a blue Mustang in high school and drove like an absolute fiend. I started out in a Pinto and moved up to a Ford-F150 with four-on-the-floor. That baby would move, and Texas is full of long, straight roads that beg speed. And if you think we were bad, imagine how the boys drove.

Now, as moderately sane middle-aged women, we can look at the statistic that single-car crashes are the number one cause of death in the 16-17 age group and pale, while thanking God we weren’t among the 33% of young drivers who die before their 18th birthday.

It’s little wonder that insurers charge more for teen drivers and settle them solidly in the high risk category. The truth of the matter, however, is that deaths among teen drivers are on the decline. Good news for themselves, for everyone who loves them, and for their insurance premiums.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crunched some numbers the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put together, the rather bleakly named “Fatality Analysis Report System,” and determined that from 2004 to 2008, teen driving fatalities continued to trend downward, something that has been true since 1996.

Early in the period there were about 27 teen deaths per 100,000 drivers nationwide. By 2008, that number was under 10. It should be noted that the averages vary widely by state. You can’t even get a license until you’re 18 in New York, so it racked up the lowest accident numbers. Out in Wyoming, a state of just over half a million total residents, the number was 60. (Again, long straight roads and isolation. A lot of driving to get anywhere.)

While it’s true that vehicle safety is better and that driving laws have evolved, much of this may be due to pure economics. The middle class has taken a terrible beating over the past few years and most young people can’t afford a card, maintenance, and insurance.

As fatalities continue to decrease, the insurers will lower their rates, which may or may not increase the number of teens behind the wheel. Either way, fewer young people are dying, the ultimate win in this situation.

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