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Teenage drivers: Car crash fatalities on the rise

There's an excitement in the teen years, as kids take big steps toward adulthood. One of those big steps is when a teenager gets a driver's license. Along with the keys to their parents' car, it gives them not only a real taste of independence, but also real dangers associated with speed, inexperience behind the wheel and risk-taking.

Unfortunately, those risks sometimes result in car crashes that leave teens injured and even dead. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, an increasing number of teens paid the ultimate price in car accidents in the first half of 2011.

The association reports that 211 teens died on the nation's roads in the first half of last year, including several in Wisconsin. That compares to 190 teen fatalities in the first six months of 2010.

Among 16-year-olds, the numbers jumped from 80 fatalities in 2010 to 93 in the first half of last year; for 17-year-olds, the jump was from 110 in the first six months of 2010 to 118 in the same period last year.

The rise in teenage fatalities reversed an eight-year decline.

The report noted that the shift upwards was dramatic: An 11 percent rise in 2011 over 2010.

"I think it's going to be a wake-up call," said a road safety consultant and former head scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The decrease over the years had been remarkable. Seventeen years ago, in 1995, there were 1,105 fatalities across the country among drivers 16 and 17 years old. By 2010, that number had dropped all the way down to 408.

Though teen fatalities rose in the first half of last year, the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that overall traffic deaths were down about one percent in the first six months of 2011.

Source: New York Times: "Fatalities Among Teenage Drivers Rose in First Half of 2011, Study Finds," Tanya Mohn, Feb. 16, 2012

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