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A new report released by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) called Teenage Driver Fatalities by State looks at exactly what the title suggests for the first six months of 2011, using preliminary data. The report reveals the number of fatalities among 16- and 17-year old drivers increased in comparison to numbers for the same time period in 2010. Overall, teen driver fatalities increased 11% from January – June, 2010 to January – June 2011, and more specifically, 16% among 16-year old drivers and 7% among 17-year old drivers.

While the number of fatalities we are talking about is relatively low (211), any life lost on our highways is a tragedy and one too many. Many of these deaths could be avoided. We know motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, so any increase should be of concern. Research indicates the leading risk factors for teen and novice drivers include lack of driving experience in various situations and road conditions, not wearing seat belts, low risk perception, poor hazard detection, distracted driving including talking on phones, texting, and other passengers, and alcohol and drugs. All states have passed legislation, including graduated driver licensing (GDL) restrictions to help keep their novice drivers safe, but we need to do more.

Parents are the primary driving instructors and role models for their children behind the wheel. Let’s put down our own phones, buckle up, pay attention and continue to provide our sons and daughters with guidance on what to do when they are driving even after they get their license. Important reminders before a teen takes the keys to drive or gets in the car with another teen driver should include wear a seat belt, don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, obey the traffic lights and posted speed limits, always be careful and drive safe, and keep your eyes on the road and focus on the task of driving only. No one wants their child to be a just another teen driving statistic.