The number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed in car accidents increased 19 percent in the first half of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Overall, 240 16- and 17-year-old drivers died in accidents from January through June last year, compared to 202 in the first six months of 2011.
The increase coincides with an estimate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that all traffic deaths rose 8 percent in the first six months of 2012.
Deaths of 16-year-old drivers increased 24 percent to 107 from 86, and deaths of 17-year-olds rose 15 percent to 133 from 116. Half the states reported increases; 17 reported declines, and eight states and the District of Columbia reported no change in the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths.
Report author Allan Williams, formerly chief scientist of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says the increase may indicate that the benefit of state graduated driver licensing laws may be leveling off. A better economy might also be leading to an increase in teen driving.
Although the news of an increase in teen driver deaths is bad, deaths in the age group still remain at a low level compared to five and 10 years ago.
"However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year," Williams said in a press statement.
Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said states should focus on strengthening graduated driver licensing laws and implementing parent programs to help parents keep their teens safe.
"Parents have a huge responsibility to ensure safe teen driving behavior," she said in a press release. "States can facilitate this by providing innovative programs that bring parents and teens together around this issue."