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16-year-old drivers in fewer fatal crashes than older teens

Getting a driver's license is a big step for many people. Parents often fear it and teenagers await the day in eager anticipation. While many have blamed teens for poor driving based on their lack of experience and tendency toward distracted driving, new research performed in part by the University of North Carolina shows that fatal crashes involving brand-new drivers are dropping.

For the recent study, researchers reviewed more than 130,000 fatal car accidents involving teen drivers that occurred over a 22-year time span. They found that 16-year-old drivers were involved in 1,348 fewer fatal car accidents. Researchers have pointed to stricter licensing requirements that have been imposed recently in many states as a possible reason for the decline.

Interestingly, researchers also argued that more lax licensing laws for teens who are 18 and older may have contributed to the recorded increase in fatal crashes among those drivers. An increase of nearly 1,100 fatal car accidents was recorded in the same analysis.

Many states have beefed up licensing laws in recent years, stretching out the amount of time a new driver must have a permit and cracking down on nighttime driving. However, once a person turns 18, there are fewer obstacles blocking the road to a driver's license. Often 18-year-olds can even decide not to take driver's ed. In some cases, they can receive a license within weeks. What this means is that many 18-year-old drivers are much less experienced than those who got their licenses at 16.

While there was no information offered that was specific to North Carolina, hopefully this data will encourage the government to make sure that anyone who is applying for a driver's license receives adequate training that will allow them to operate a vehicle safely. Car accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and sometimes even result in wrongful deaths, proving why it is so important that drivers have a good understanding of how to operate a car before they are given a license.

Source: NPR, "Fatal Car Crashes Drop For 16-Year-Olds, Rise For Older Teens," Allison Aubrey, Sept. 14, 2011

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