Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia had the highest teen fatal accident rates in the country from 2007 to 2011, according to a report released this week.
There were about 16,000 teen highway deaths nationwide during the five-year period, the report revealed. That represents more than an 11 percent drop from 2006 to 2010, when about 18,000 fatalities were recorded, according to Erie Insurance, which based its study on the most recent statistics gathered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Despite the decline, the fatality rate for teenagers (age 16 to 19) is about 35 percent higher than the rate for drivers age 20 or older.
"While our numbers show the average teen driving death rate from 2007 to 2011 trending down, we've also seen preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association showing the 2012 rate creeping up," notes Karen Kraus Phillips, a vice president at Erie, in the report. "The bottom line is that one death is too many. Tens of thousands of teen injuries and deaths happen on the road every year and car crashes remain the leading cause of death for this age group."
The states with the highest rate of teen driver deaths from 2007 to 2011, according to the report, are:
In some cases, the states with high teen fatal crash rates overlap with the states where people drive more miles. For instance, Wyoming, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Montana are all among the top 12 states in the nation with most vehicle miles traveled per capita, according to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 2010.
The study also listed states with the lowest rates:
While the numbers are disturbing, government statistics show that highway fatalities for teenagers are about half of what they were a decade ago. Safety advocates say teen deaths have been declining, in part because many states have adopted graduated driver licensing laws (GDLs).
These programs phase in driving experience for younger drivers, allowing beginners to sharpen skills under lower-risk driving situations first, before they move on to more complex conditions. Also, laws regulating texting and other distractions adopted by many states have contributed to the drop.
But Erie and others believe more needs to be done. Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, says many states -- including Mississippi, Arizona, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota -- should implement or improve their existing GDLs.
Beyond GDL programs, parents and their kids should consider these Erie recommendations:
The parent-teen driving contract may also get you a small discount, usually less than 5 percent, on your insurance premiums. Here are some other ways you can reduce the bill:
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